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Despite the now cheesy 1980s rock score and the choice of using just hot actors of the day rather than more capable ones doesn't detract at all from the powerful storytelling that is shown within this movie.  It's easy enough to be distracted from all the cool cinematography and snappy one-liners, but there is an honest script trying to shoot its way out and be heard (just like the Young Guns posse in the finale).  So with age comes wisdom and it is only now that I have really begun to appreciate the higher meaning that this script delivers for the characters' situations, as it strangely seems to draw many parallels with what we face (or at least read about) today in our modern society - hostile takeovers, corruption, deceipt and loss of innocence.

"Jeez boss, what did you give your horse to drink this time?"
The hostile takeovers are shown in the form of one man's immoral quest to control everything, regardless of the cost to himself and everyone around him (which can be viewed nowadays as "big business").  With this comes corruption, not only from the man who wants to be number one but also by those that he influences to support his cause (and even they don't realise they have been led astray), as well as the general power of money that can sometimes (but not always) change an honest man's integrity.  The deceipt (intentional or not) is the belief that any small act on the part of someone will only result in a small change of outcome, whereas in reality they are being deceived into changing the entire course of history against those who wish to fight for rightful justice.  The loss of innocence is the result of those who find themselves on the fringe of society who must continually fight against an entire system that is easily prejudiced against anyone that is stereo-typically "not of good character", so no doubt they are judged before anyone really knows what they actually stand for.

This is still quite a powerful movie that for me holds even more relativeness today in our modern day and age - there are many similarities which faced these Young Guns as what our kids must be having to deal with today.  As much as we might profess to being open-minded and accepting of other people's beliefs and attitudes, don't we occasionally take a one-sided view of a younger person who rides a skateboard recklessly or gives us a bit of lip when he/she takes something you've said the wrong way?  They may all seem like rebels without a cause, but either they are just misunderstood or simply not listened to which no doubt only adds to their frustration.  Ultimately, they are usually then interpreted by some of us as having little or no moral values at all, and if we continue to take this kind of attitude all the time with everyone we meet, that might well be what they end up being.

"Eeeh Billy, look at how many knives I can juggle ... oops!"
Movie
A long running feud has been brewing between the corrupt Irish businessman Lawrence G Murphy (Jack Palance) and the Englishman who takes young outlaws under his wing John Tunstall (Terence Stamp).  John is well-known in town for taking in what he himself terms as "the flotsam and jetsam of frontier society" and attempts to raise them with an education and life skills other than gun-slinging.  His latest recruit comes in the form of William H Bonnie (Emilio Estevez) whom will later be touted as "Billy The Kid".  William is taken in by John where he soon meets the other members of the family that are affectionally termed "The Regulators" - these include the wannabe-poet Josiah Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), the Mexican-Indian Jose Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) and the moral-leader of the pack Richard Brewer (Charlie Sheen) amongst others.

However, betrayal and deception inevitably come their way as John Tunstall is brutally murdered by members of "The Murphy Boys" in a vicious takeover bid for the man's property and dispersion of the so-called "dregs of society".  Even the resident lawyer Patrick Garrett (Patrick Wayne) and Sheriff Brady can't touch Murphy and his gang due to the power they wield in this town, so Patrick battles with the conscience of the local Justice Of The Peace to deputise The Regulators so as to issue warrants for everyone's arrest (as they are the only ones willing enough carry out this task).  But Billy has other things in mind and decides to enact justice of a different kind - the dead kind - which lands the entire gang into becoming wanted men themselves after biased news of their exploits reaches the governor and the president (no doubt due to the influence of Murphy's numerous contacts).

"Josiah, I need to tell you something ... you're kneeling on my chest."
The Young Guns now go from being the law to becoming the lawless, as they find themselves in an impossible situation with not only the new law but Murphy's henchmen, numerous bounty hunters and even the military now after their heads.  However, William manages to convince his reluctant posse each time to follow him to hell and back.  William's motives it seems are not just centred around simple revenge (really?), but for a cause much higher than this - to tell those in the highest authority (the presidency) about the corruption and manipulation that is happening in this town - and if that means killing more and more of the people that stand in their way of this, then so help them God!

Video
Magna Pacific have thankfully released this movie in our native R4 PAL format, which is more than can be said for Warner Brothers' effort with its sequel being given the NTSC treatment instead.  Magna Pacific have also done a remarkable job with the obviously unremastered source materials they were given to encode the DVD with.  The image quality for Young Guns I in PAL still contains many of the blemishes and shortcomings that graced its sequel in NTSC, where the only real improvement comes from a better delineation of colours as well as sharpness of detail - other than that, you can expect pretty much the same rough quality here.

The blacks are a marked improvement as they carry a lot of depth but detail is still lacking in many of the indoor scenes, although the artificially highlighted nighttime sequences help to bring everyone out of the woodwork.  The whole film carries a lot of grain which some might say is the director's deliberate intention to exhibit an old-time feeling for the events portrayed onscreen, which I'm guessing also excuses him for bringing in just as much film artefacting as there are horse droppings.  The colour scheme is again predominantly red/brown in nature, which can exhibit both a warm and cold environment to suit the scenes in question.   Overall, there is a suitably dusty and gritty feel to the image which helps to sell the bleakness of such a hostile existence as what the old west must have been like to live in.

"I'll just go get the boys some coffee ... and cyanide pills to go."
Audio
This soundmix is a perfect example of what surround (pro-logic) soundtracks were like when they found their prime in the late 80s, before discrete digital mixes poked their head in the horse's trough.  This 2.0 soundmix is miles ahead of the (supposed) 5.1 remix given to its sequel, at least in terms of aural involvement for the viewer.

There are many opportunities to utilise the surround speakers in such an imaginative way that it perfectly complements the activity going on at the front (which is also rich in left-to-right gunfire and ricochets).  And even though you know there is only a mono surround channel you'd still swear that the stereo soundmixers of the day were able to sneak in the occasional split-rear effect (yeah I know, technically it's not possible, but listen to it for yourselves).  The subwoofer doesn't get nearly as much of a workout here unfortunately, it is only on the rare occasion that the bottom-end goes down far enough for it to be redirected for use.  Dialogue is quite clear and undistorted, which is better than expected since most of it sounds like the original on-the-set recordings made at the time of filming.

This soundtrack is the reason why us home-cinema freaks purchased our funky Pro-Logic capable amplifiers a decade ago!

Extras
There is a brief featurette which contains equal amounts of interviews and (sadly) recycled movie footage.  This is interesting in terms of the actors interpretation of the story as well as seeing everyone in eye-achingly retro-fashion and hairstyles (which are luckily unnoticable in the film proper).  The theatrical trailer is also provided.

Four on left went on to great things ... where are the other two now?
Summary
It seems that the more a person is talked about, the more they become a cliché in modern times.  Was Billy The Kid just a misunderstood Robin Hood of his day or a bloodthirsty psychopathic killer with a death wish?  Noone can ever know the true intentions of a person, let alone all the events that transpired for them to arrive at a certain point in history.  Lord only knows how our kids will picture Bill Gates when we pass on!

Young Guns is a wonderful mixture of thoughtful storytelling, dry humour and gun-toting action all rolled into one.  Also, if you were once fed on a stable diet of the most popular 1990s films such as Dances With Wolves and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, you'd no doubt recognise the unmistakable cinematography of Dean Semler, his latest foray being xXx with Vin Diesel.  Even if this film isn't worthy of your hard earned cash to purchase, at least give it another rental and experience it again (if anything for a new appreciation of the plot).


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