Young Guns (1988) Film Review


John Tunstall, (Terence Stamp) takes in young men who are at risk of running astray and becoming trouble makers, and gives them a sense of self-worth. He teaches them to read and do good work, and instills in them a sense of right and wrong. It’s the Wild West, so morals are, at the best of times, dubious. Tunstall gets killed by the evil Lawrence G. Murphy (Jack Palance. Believe it, or not), and his young men go out avenge his death. They’ve been deputized, but this does not mean they can do anything. Amongst their number is Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) who is a loose cannon.

This was one of my favourite films as a teenager. Several of my friends and I must have watched this a hundred times. We knew all the lines, knew everything about the film. Then, a few years ago, a friend and I re-watched it, and I hated it so much. It was totally and utterly awful. I felt that my memory had let me down, and I felt sad. Then this same friend stumbled across it on television, watched it and all the old love was back. I gave it another go, and it was wonderful. I have no idea why we hated it for that brief moment.

I should be clear – I don’t think it is a great film. But for me, it was a film for that time of my life. I was a teenager and the film was full of handsome young men (Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen). There was a bit of humour and a lot of action, both of which I still love in a film. I think had I been an adult watching it then, I’d have hated it; or perhaps I wouldn’t have been that harsh on it, but I wouldn’t have had the reckless love for it that only a teenage girl can have.