Director: Geoff Murphy | 104 minutes | action, western | Actors: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, William L. Petersen, Alan Ruck, R.D. Call, James Coburn, Balthazar Getty, Jack Kehoe, Robert Knepper, Tom Kurlander, Viggo Mortensen, Leon Rippy, Tracey Walter
“Young Guns II” is the logical sequel to the 1988 movie hit “Young Guns”. Once again, Emilio Estevez stars as Billy the Kid, and Lou Diamond Phillips and Kiefer Sutherland are back. In the first part Charlie Sheen was shot, but in this part it has been replaced by another well-known actor from the 80s and 90s: Christian Slater.
“Young Guns II” starts with a beautiful scene showing a journalist who has an appointment with someone somewhere in the desert. The year is 1950 and the journalist takes his car to the meeting place. There he meets a very old man who is waiting with his horse, the old man begins to tell the old man that he is dying and that his last wish is that he get clemency from the governor, as he was promised in 1881. The journalist wants to know what the reason for this is. The old man tells him that his name is William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid and that he has murdered 21 people and that he wants to come to terms with himself and his past.
The movie ends just as it started; with elderly Billy the Kid in the desert. A frame story, Billy looks back the entire film and occasionally gives some text and explanation about certain events via a voice-over. The frame story is nice, the scenes at the beginning and at the end of the film have been liked and give something extra to the hint of mysticism that hangs around Billy the Kid (he did actually exist). Unfortunately, the voice-over is not always in the right place. A voice-over can be a good way to clarify something or to summarize certain events, but in this film the voice-over is unnecessary and comes across as rather artificial. “Young Guns II” is of course a light western in the first instance and a voice-over is somewhat out of place.
With a sequel, of course, the comparison with the first part is always drawn and unfortunately also in this case the original is better than the sequel. The casting is fine in both parts, but part one had a much better script than part two. The story is rather incoherent and it is difficult to get started. Billy is on the road again with his old comrades in arms and they are chased by the sheriff through beautiful desert landscapes, nothing has changed in that regard, but where in ‘Young Guns’ it was clear that Billy and his gang were carrying out a revenge action against the murderers of their friend and caretaker, however, in ‘Young Guns II’ the context is not always clear. It is unfortunate that the relationship between Pat Garret and Billy the Kid has no longer been emphasized. They were once best friends and partners in crime until Garret went after Billy as sheriff under pressure from the law.
So the story is a bit thin, yet “Young Guns II” has turned out to be an entertaining film. As mentioned, the casting is fine. Emilio Estevez plays the smart Billy the Kid with the same conviction. Lou Diamond Phillips can be repeated as the knife-pulling, spiritual Indian Chavez and Kiefer Sutherland is once again Doc, the meek outlaw who is reluctantly sucked back by Billy. New in this part is Christian Slater who plays the bandit with the great name Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh. He’s the same type as Billy; bold, big-mouthed and self-righteous. His constant arguments with Billy over the gang’s leadership are particularly laughable. In addition, we also see James Coburn (“The Magnificent Seven”, “The Great Escape”) and Viggo Mortensen (“Lord of The Rings” trilogy) in a number of supporting roles, and William Petersen (CSI) is Sheriff Pat Garret.
The title song “Blaze of Glory” by Jon Bon Jovi, which has a tiny textless part, became a huge hit and won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar. However, the film did not receive nominations for acting, directing and script, and that is entirely justified, because “Young Guns II” is nothing more than a frivolous, action-packed western.