Lawrence Kasdan's broad brush rendering of the classic western is everything a good shoot-em-up should be. Made at a time when westerns were rarer than hen's teeth, Silverado serves up a simple, violent morality without apologies or ambivalence. The cast is a who's who of 80s cinema, ranging from that great bear of a man Brian Dennehy as the West’s most crooked sheriff, to diminutive Linda Hunt who nearly steals the movie as an iron-willed saloon owner. Scott Glenn is outstanding as Emmett, a rugged character he was born to play, and the screen can barely contain Kevin Costner in the role that launched his career. The film also features memorable turns by Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Rosanna Arquette and even John Cleese as a displaced Brit wandering the limitless vistas America’s rocky badlands.
While most contemporary westerns reflect society’s uneasiness with some aspects of the genre’s mythology, tending to focus on the hardships and injustices of frontier life rather than its heroic individuals, Silverado suffers from no such illusions of social relevance. It is a rousing, rip snortin’ cowboy adventure flick that feels like a lost artifact from the 1930s. Its good guys are taciturn, upstanding citizens of sterling moral fiber while its bad guys are very, very bad. That’s really all you need to know, because if you try to follow the plot too closely you’ll realize that some of it doesn’t really make any sense. But Kasdan’s buckskin clad noble knights have no time for minor narrative inconsistencies; they’re much too busy avenging wrongs, recovering from gunshot wounds and loading their pistols for a final battle to save their dusty town from the clutches of corrupt lawmen and greedy ranchers. And as we cheer their two fisted exploits, Silverado transports us back to childhood, when the sight of a virtuous man atop a galloping steed made us believe everything would be all right.