I want a Western to adhere to a bit of Realism. I’m thinking of The Proposition or Hell or High Water or the entirety of Deadwood. Still, I’ll take what I can get. I do appreciate Support Your Local Sheriff, which is something like an act of charity for unemployed stuntmen.
Working late on some process documentation1 I picked a movie, mostly at random, to have on in the background. Naturally, ended up watching Silverado beginning to end while only clacking out about 5 words an hour.2
My big takeaway from this movie I haven’t seen since I was in high school is that Kevin Kline is the least convincing movie cowboy tough guy in the Hollywood Canon, and I’m including Dean Martin in virtually anything and Jack Palance in City Slickers 2.
I half expected him to start belting out lines from Pirates of Penzance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan. I even like January Man, which nobody likes. But I don’t see him as a hard drinking, tough talking, card sharp with a deadeye.
He’s Dave. He was miscast.
Silverado is Old Hollywood, with Big Stars wearing fancy clothes, shiny Colts, and tiny hats. The characters look like it had been 2 days since their last bath, not a more believable 2 months. But that’s fine. It’s fine.
After saving himself from a 3 on 1 ambush and taking one of the bad guys horses, Emmett, craggy Scott Glenn, heads out through prairies, desserts, and mountains to join up with his brother Jake, played by a very very young Kevin Costner. Along the way he finds Kevin Kline’s Paden laying out under the desert sun in his long johns. Turn out, Paden had been robbed of his horse, his guns, his hat, and clothes by three men he had met along the trail. Is it possible that that these bad guys and Emmett’s bad guys are in cahoots? It is possible, because this is a movie and a lack of coincidence would make a very short movie.
Along the way they do good deeds and get Paden’s stuff back from the bad guys who robbed him.
In the town of Turley, the trio help out some homesteaders on their way to the frontier town of Silverado. Robbers try to take the treasure the settlers will use to pay for their future and Emmett and Paden get it back with violence. Is it possible that the robbers are in cahoots with Emmett and Paden’s bad guys? Of course it is.
They also meet Danny Glover‘s Mal in Turley, coincidentally on his way to to help his family of freedmen work their farm. Silverado is run by Brian Dennehy, town sheriff and all around bad dude who’s had a long history of getting up to mischief with Paden.
My favorite scene is midway through the picture,and our four hero’s interaction with the Turley Sheriff Langston, played by John Cleese. Surprising to me, Langston is a genuinely intimidating dude who has low tolerance for outsiders, including Emmett, Paden, and Mal3
He really hates Jake, however, who Langston is going to hang for a) kissing a girl, and b) killing a man who objected.
Of course, they break Jake out and get away, with the help of Mal’s skills with a rifle:
Deputy : That them shootin’?
Sheriff Langston : No, it’s coming from those rocks
Deputy : Well, let’s go. He ain’t hittin’ nothin’.
Sheriff Langston : You idiot, he’s hit everything he’s aimed at!
Deputy : Well, they ain’t out of our jurisdiction ’til they reach the flattop.
[Sheriff Langston’s hat is shot off his head]
Sheriff Langston : Today, my jurisdiction ends here. Pick up my hat.
Lawrence Kasdan directed Silverado in 1985. Kasdan, you may know, also made the Boomer loadstar, The Big Chill, which dug deep into nostalgia and featured the music of black musicians but not one black actor. I couldn’t not think of that as I watched Silverado. Silverado is nostalgia, not for a West that never happened, but for the Westerns of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
OH! I almost forgot that Jeff Goldblum plays a professional gambler who keeps a knife in his boot. He looks a little like a slightly more heterosexual Tommy Tune in Hello, Dolly! I don’t know if a 19th Century diet or medicine could support a 7 foot tall ramblin’ gamblin’ man’s matabolism.
Anyway, if you’re looking for something Amazon Prime to fill the silence, you could do worse than Silverado, as long as you keep in mind that it’s Baby Boomer nostaligia and Kevin Kline, unfortunately, never once breaks out into fake French.