Silverado (1985)

Silverado (1985), written, produced and directed by Lawrence Kasdan.

Every few years a studio marketing department wants us to know "The Western is back!" They did it with Pale Rider (1985) and I remember them doing it for this one the same year.

Here they have not gone as grim as Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) or as comical as Richard Donner's Maverick (1994). Instead we revert to the classic "fun adventure" western, where both heroes and villains are brave and each hero has a showdown with his nemesis at the climax.

Kasdan has tried to revive the traditional western and mines many of the rich film genre conventions. It is fun without being epic in scale or remarkable for its plot.

This is most memorable for a rich cast and startling casting choices. I boggle at the appearance of Rosanna Arquette as a pioneer woman. Jeff Goldblum as a gambler in a fur coat? John Cleese is a comic relief town marshall: ok, that happens.

Many of these people seem out of place, which is odd because in classic films the same set of contract players would appear together in westerns, romantic comedies, crime pictures, and no one thought anything about it. We usually accept them with little thought of miscasting.

Why is it different today, that famous faces don't belong in certain roles? Somehow our relationship with the cinema fantasy world has changed.

Other supporting players seem more at home:

Linda Hunt has a nice part and unexpected love interest. I'm guessing Rosanna Arquette was supposed to be part of a love triangle that was cut; the bits remaining make no sense.

Jolly, top-heavy Brian Dennehy is a head villain.

Huge assembly of ugly bad guy minions, many of them stunt-men.

Lastly, our principle heroes: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, and a youngish Kevin Costner. I particularly like Kline's combination of humor and dead-eyed despair when it is time to draw.


Superior Copland-esque adventure score by Bruce Broughton. Photographed by John Bailey -- Cat People (1982), Groundhog Day (1993).

Available on Blu-ray with a light, chatty commentary track by three western film scholars.