Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Silverado Review

Dir. Lawrence Kasdan

Staring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Rosanna Arquette, John Cleese, Kevin Costner, Brian Dennehy, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Linda Hunt

Chance encounters turn four men into friends and unlikely heroes as they band together to free the town of Silverado from a corrupt sheriff and the wealthy family that has seized control of it.

On the surface it might seem odd that Lawrence Kasdan followed up The Big Chill with a big western action film. But it makes more sense when you look back farther in his career and you see that he also the writer for the Star Wars sequels Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones film. Of those, Raiders is the film that is the most similar to Silverado, in it being a throw back to old Hollywood westerns similar to how Raiders was an homage to the old pulp adventure serial. The film has a very laid back, "Let's have an adventure!" feel to it during the fun first half, with the scenes with John Cleese's ineptly bad sheriff giving the film a lot of humor, and other scenes giving you a lot of fun moments with the characters were you get to know them and see them becoming friends while having an adventure, which should be of no surprise since with The Big Chill Kasdan made a film that showed that he knew how to make a film where he could introduce characters and build relationships between them. The second half of the film has a more serious tone, with Brian Dennehy's sheriff being bad in a completely different way than Cleese's, and with the threat from Mckendrick family giving the characters a larger threat with much bigger stakes. The events in the first half are important becase as you learn and care about the characters, this make the second half more engaging, which is just good storytelling. But the biggest thing about the movie is how upbeat and postive it is. The film could be seen as a reaction to the more grim and dark westerns that became the trend following the spaghetti western boom. And that's what is great about the film. The sense of fun and the quick pacing makes Silverado a joy to watch.

The cast is great in this film. Scott Glenn and Kevin Kline are both very good in the film, especially Kline who what is probably his only role in an action film. Danny Glover is also good in the film, giving the film some of it's more serious moments like the scene in the bar earlier in the film dealing with racism of the era, and the scene where he learns about his families fate. But Kevin Costner steals the show as Jake. Kasdan gave Costner the role after having deleting all Costner's scenes from his previous film, The Big Chill, and Costner took this role and ran with it, giving an extremely fun performance that is the highlight of the film. He and his character both seem like they are both having a lot of fun, and giving the film some of it's most fun moments.

In terms of supporting roles Cleese is a high point of the first half of the film, giving his scenes a sense of fun and playfulness, like for instance the scene of his chess game. His sheriff gives a good counterpoint to the other bad sheriff in the back half of the film, played by Brian Dennehy. While Cleese's sheriff is more ineffectual and inept, Dennehy's is more menacing and overtly dangerous. These two characters give an interesting contrast in the types of enemies that the heroes have to have. Dennehy is more the heavy villain of the film, since the family of the Mckendrick family is essentially a faceless threat. Goldblum is good in a small role, and has a better cowboy costume that the one he wore in the extremely underrated Adventure of Buckaroo Banzai. Rosanna Arquette has the least to do in the movie, and I had actually forgotten all about her character until she returned in the films final scene (which isn't a knock on her, more of a complaint about how her character is used in the film). And something has to be said about Jeff Fahey's crazy eyes in the movie.

Silverado seems to be a film that while successful when it was released, it seems to have been forgotten in recent years, which is a shame because it is a fine film, with great characters and fun scenes. It is a film that when it was over I wanted more time with the characters, and more adventures in that world, which is a huge complement for any film. It's hard for me not to gush to much about it, but I really like this film a lot.

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