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‘Young Guns’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 16, 1988

The clubby atmosphere of "Young Guns," the new Brat Pack western, is so thick as to be almost suffocating. Directed by Christopher Cain, it's like a Western-style dress-up party for Hollywood kiddies, horses and guns included.

The story line, such as it is, involves a group of young strays, the "flotsam and jetsam of Western society," gathered together by an interloping British cattleman (Terence Stamp) who feeds and educates them in preparation for life in the wild Nebraska territory. Among them is the youthful Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez), who becomes the unofficial group leader after their benefactor is gunned down by a gang working for a corrupt rival cattleman (Jack Palance).

Originally, the group, called the Regulators, is deputized at the urging of a local attorney (Terry O'Quinn) to bring the murderers to trial. But revenge, not justice, is the motive for some of the members of the band, which includes actors Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips and Kiefer Sutherland.

The actors are loose and confident, but they don't so much give performances here as preen and cavort for the camera. And there's a singularly egregious lack of interest shown in historical accuracy.

In fact, "Young Guns" plays out less as a movie than as a sort of fraternity frolic. There are endless shootouts and chases, a woeful sequence in which the boys take peyote, and even more baffling exchanges of attitudinizing talk. The action sequences seem to throw Cain, and he's not so great with the more stationary scenes either. As for transitions, his approach is to have one of the characters rush in at the end of one scene and announce what's to happen in the next.

The movie is showy without having any noticeably coherent style. The thinking behind it seems to have been that because not much was being attempted, not much offense should be taken. Indeed, it might have been possible to enjoy "Young Guns" as a larky spree if the photogenic stars didn't carry themselves with such a smug, self-congratulatory air. But they behave as if our adoration were their birthright.

"Young Guns" contains graphic violence, profanity and some nudity.

Copyright The Washington Post

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