Top critical review
on March 3, 2004
Artisan Entertainment's 1988 Young Guns is a witty story mostly based on part of the life of William H. Bonney (aka Billy The Kid). This film has the traditional Western theme of revenge. This is a common theme within the Western Genre; and why not, it tends to make for good entertainment. The difference with this film is it is (at least in part) based on a true story.
This is not to say that this movie should be taken as a true historical representation of how things happened. But, there is a fair amount of fact built into the story. What is really impressive is the way that the filmmaker gets everyone to like this gang of outlaws.
It's easy at first to feel good about the characters involved. Most are just misguided youths who have been taken in by a man who helps them better themselves. Our main character, Billy (played by Emelio Esteves), is the newest edition to the group that calls themselves 'The Regulators'. Soon after making himself a home with this band of men, William and the rest of the gang sees their mentor slaughtered by a business competitor. The local justice of the peace is then convinced to deputize these young boys so that they can serve warrants to the killers and help expose a long standing ring of corruption.
Up until now, there is everything to like about these characters. That ends quickly, though. The group of orphaned men are supposed to serve legal warrants to the murderers. This does not quite happen, though. The new deputy gang takes it upon themselves to avenge the death of their surrogate father. They go across the countryside killing all who were involved. The behavior under is considered to be reprehensible, even under the circumstances.
What keeps you from hating this gang that follows Billy The Kid are the wonderful personalities of the men. Billy is one in particular, that a person loves to hate, but cannot get enough of. He is harsh and offensive, cocky and annoying, yet for some reason he draws people to him. His cohorts (played by Charlie Sheen, Keifer Sutherland, and Lou Diamond Phillips) have equally intriguing personalities. Each one keeps the watcher drawn in close to see how everything will turn out, even though their behavior should make a person hate them.