Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terry O’Quinn, Jack Palance, Terence Stamp
Director: Christopher Cain
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: April 22, 2003

“Billy, what are we gonna do now?”

“We’re gonna show these guys they’ve finally met their match.”

Film ***

With its unique cast of actors, one could label Young Guns as sort of an attempt to market a western to a somewhat younger audience. Surprisingly, as I found out with my first viewing of it fourteen years ago, the movie turns out to be a highly entertaining western, and the performances are first rate. Some may even argue that Emilio Estevez is a presence that isn’t much missed, even though I still wonder what has happened to him lately, but the actor truly came into his own with his manic portrayal of legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. To sum it up, this accomplishes everything that the recent and much similar American Outlaws tried to do, as we end up buying into this group of gunslingers in their early days.

The film opens with William H. Bonny, aka Billy the Kid, committing an act of robbery. While eluding authorities, he captures the eye of the old and wise John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), a cattle farmer who takes in boys with troubled pasts hoping to help them find a brighter future. The other young men who Tunstall has token in are Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Richard Brewer (Charlie Sheen), Charlie Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko), and Dirty Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney).

The group of men have formed a law abiding clan known as The Regulators, although their true determination of enforcing the law doesn’t come into play until the shooting of Tunstall, which is no doubt at the hands of Murphy (Jack Palance), who’s been trying to take over Tunstall’s land for some time. Billy, who has long admitted to be a hot wire killer, insists on taking down Murphy, along with each and every one of his men, one shooting at a time. It isn’t too long before the outlaws have everyone in the country on their trail, including that of union troops.

Young Guns is by no means a masterful western, but a strongly entertaining one at that. The movie is high on shootout sequences that ring true of the time. I don’t really recall hearing more gunfire in a single western. This one may even have the far superior Tombstone beat out in that department. The so-called brat pack western spawned a sequel that dealt mostly with the fate of the surviving characters, as well as touching up on Billy’s relationship with Pat Garrett, the man who would eventually be his killer.

Those who saw the 2001 release American Outlaws, which had the Jesse James gang looking like a boy band of the old west, and were let down immensely might want to check out, or re-visit this worthy entry in the western genre. It still remains entertaining after all these years.

Video **1/2

I never caught Young Guns when it first hit DVD, so I can’t offer a comparison on how it compares to the transfer on this new Special Edition. The anamorphic picture on this disc is acceptable, but at the same time could have been improved in some areas. A good percent of the presentation is a decent and sharp for the most part picture quality, with notable details, but there were a few instances of imaging that looked no different than a cassette tape, and we all know we don’t want that in our DVDs. I give it a rating boost, though, for making the most of its western setting.

Audio ***

For a 15 year old movie, Artisan has done this presentation some justice. The 5.1 mix (Dolby or DTS) provides impressive moments of sharp sound. Most superior in the presentation is, of course, the action sequences, which come close to having you blown away by the sharp sound of gunfire and numerous explosions. Music and dialogue also come through clear and flawless.

Features ***1/2

While I wouldn’t exactly rank this with some of Artisan’s previous Special Edition outings like Reservoir Dogs or Rambo, they still deliver the goods with this new Special Edition release. Above all else, the packaging is among the best I’ve seen in a while, as Artisan makes tremendous good use of the slip cover cases. As for the disc itself, we get a commentary track from Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney, and Casey Siemaszko. Also featured is a documentary titled “The Real Billy the Kid”, which goes beyond the movie for a glimpse at the real events in the famous outlaw’s life. Rounding out the extras on the disc is a trivia fact track, a trailer for this, as well as trailers for Dune, Reservoir Dogs, The Rambo Trilogy, and Total Recall.


Young Guns remains a fun ride of a western fifteen years after its release, and this Special Edition release from Artisan makes it more than worthy of a re-visit.