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The year is 1878, Lincoln County, John Tunstall, a British ranch owner, hires six rebellious boys as "regulators" to protect his ranch against the ruthless Santa Fe Ring. When Tunstall is killed in an ambush, the Regulators, led by the wild-tempered Billy the Kid, declare war on the Ring. As their vendetta turns into a bloody rampage, they are branded outlaws, becoming the objects of the largest manhunt in the western history.

Christopher Cain
Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Jack Palance
Writing Credits:
John Fusco

Six reasons why the west was wild.
Rated R.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Digital Stereo

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 4/22/2003

• Audio Commentary with Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney, and Casey Siemaszko
• The Real Billy the Kid Documentary- Follows the story of Billy the Kid's humble birth, life of murder and crime, and his final violent death.
• Trivia Track-Gunning For the Facts
• Theatrical Trailer
• Trailer Gallery

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TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


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Young Guns: Special Edition (1988)

Reviewed by David Williams (April 29, 2003)

Young Guns was the epitome of the Brat Pack’s infiltration into all aspects of Hollywood and society in general. The film was never intended to be a historically accurate – heck, it wasn’t even intended to be serious for that matter. Young Guns was just a good excuse for a small fraternity of six young, handsome, Hollywood male leads to spend someone else’s money – namely, the studio’s – and play a grand game of “Cowboys and Indians” – complete with real horses, guns that shot blanks, and some really cool costumes. They barely had to act, as the majority of the time, the actors were simply preening, cavorting, and indulging themselves like a group of fraternity brothers kicking up their heels in the Old West.

John Ford this isn’t … the opening sequence speaks volumes to that fact as we get a lingering close-up of each actors face … Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, and two guys who were just happy to be there, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko. Then, with a really bad 80’s soundtrack synthetically rumbling in the background, the guys start firing at the camera … well, at nothing really. Then, as the smoke clears, they’re all standing there looking right at us with this smarmy grin that says, “Damn right! We know you pre-pubescent and adolescent guys out in the audience want to be us … and we know that your girlfriends would sleep with us given a chance. It’s good to be king.” And so it begins … 80’s Brat Pack subtlety at its finest.

The plot, as it is, is a new take on an old story – that of Billy The Kid (Emilio Estevez), the young outlaw who was said to have killed one man for every year of his short 21-year life. Young Guns catches up with William H. Bonney (a.k.a. “Billy The Kid”) during his days in Lincoln County, New Mexico prefacing what would become the “Lincoln County War”. The War came about because two local cattlemen, John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) and Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance), couldn’t seem to get along, with each wanting the other out of business; the proverbial case of “this town ain’t big enough for the both if us”. Both parties hired gunslingers and laborers to protect their interests, as well as their well being.

Tunstall hired on a band of orphans, runaways, and misfits in order to help maintain the peace and help him with all of the manual labor involved in running his ranch. It’s here that we meet the poetic “Doc” Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland); the calm, cool, and collected Richard Brewer (Charlie Sheen); the blade brandishing Chavez Y. Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips); “Dirty” Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney); and Charley Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko). The men obviously appreciate the work and see Tunstall as the father most of them never had. It’s later on in the film that Billy The Kid shows up to work on the farm as well. He fits right in with the motley crew and things are going quite well for all of them.

However, all that changes one day, as Tunstall is gunned down in an ambush by some of Murphy’s men. The boys at his ranch hear the news and are rightfully enraged. When a local attorney, Alex McSween (Terry O'Quinn), decides to deputize the six men as “Regulators” in order serve warrants on Murphy and his thugs, things go from bad to worse, as Billy, his gang, and his itchy trigger finger go on a bloody rampage. This bloodletting grabs the attention of the local sheriff and when he decides that the “Regulators” must be stopped, Billy and his gang find themselves pursued by the law, as well as Murphy. Even so, these “young guns” refuse to go down without a fight, as they are determined to exact justice - Old West style – for Tunstall’s murder.

With all of my smarmy comments at the beginning of the review, you might think that I didn’t enjoy Young Guns. Actually, I did. I was one of those 18-year-old kids sitting out in the audience with a date thinking how cool it’d be to have fame, fortune, and women and my beckoned call. That being said, I enjoyed the film for what it was – a mindless, shoot-em-up Western that didn’t require much more from the viewer other than actually having their butt in the seat – and that’s the exact same reason I enjoy it today. Sure it’s cheesy and dated, but it’s also fast-paced, action-packed, and a lot of fun if you check your brain at the door.

Everyone has films like Young Guns that they enjoy, even though they might personally despise everything that the film itself stands for. While we may crucify a hundred other films for being as badly written/directed/acted/executed as Young Guns, for some strange reason, some of us find room in our cold hearts to forgive director Christopher Cain and all of the smug, self-congratulatory actors in the film and we just sit back and enjoy the ride. I hate to admit it, but it was a lot of fun revisiting this film after all of these years.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B- / Bonus C+

Artisan released Young Guns back when the DVD format was still in its infancy and thankfully, the studio has decided to revisit this 80’s Brat Pack favorite with a newly restored, anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

While the new transfer is a definite upgrade over what Artisan provided on their initial release, the film still displays some problems – most of them simply being a product of the film’s age. Young Guns maintains a very earthy and dusty palette throughout the film, with some definite contrast and balance issues noted. There’s a thin layer of grain seen on multiple occasions and while noted, it never drags the sharpness or detail of the overall image down too bad. The color palette appeared quite natural and I didn’t find any instances where the hues were greatly exaggerated or smeared and this allowed for some very natural-looking fleshtones. Black levels in the film seemed to suffer slightly and while the shadow detail and delineation were acceptable, they weren’t much to write home about either, as there was some noticeable loss of detail in certain areas.

Flaws with the print were of the run-of-the-mill variety, as grain and minor print flaws were the order of the day. There were a couple of instances of slight shimmer and edge enhancement seen during the film, but like the other flaws mentioned, they weren’t real distracting. The transfer is teetering between a C+ and a B-, but giving Artisan the benefit of the doubt, I decided to go with the higher score.

Ultimately, Young Guns was a pleasant viewing experience and has received a really nice upgrade from the fine folks at Artisan. The film has never looked better and while there were definitely more improvements that could have been made, fans of the film should, for the most part, be pleased with the upgrade. It’s doubtful that we’ll see this film revisited for years to come and thankfully, Artisan made a wise decision to double-dip.

Artisan has improved greatly over the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track for Young Guns, as they have seen fit to include not only the original 2.0 track, but also Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes for the film. While neither of the tracks is demo material, they’re a nice addition to the Young Guns set and are a welcome upgrade over the previous Dolby Digital Surround offering found on the original disc.

First things first as is usually the case, I found myself much more enamored with the DTS mix more so than its Dolby Digital counterpart. It seemed to be a bit more expansive and full, with a bit more deep low-end and a slightly more expansive soundstage to work in. Neither mix is demo material and on the flip side of the coin, neither mix is inherently bad either. While I feel there are some noticeable differences in the transfers, it’s (almost) as much personal preference as anything else.

The feature contains a very forward heavy presence throughout and there were some nice split surrounds and pans noted on many occasions that sounded quite nice. That being said, the track isn’t nearly as active as more recent features and in comparison, might seem a little less active that any sort of action blockbuster than has seen the light of day on DVD in the past two or three years. Effects – most notably, gunfire – sound natural and distinct and pack quite a wallop on occasion, as gunshots begin and end from their proper place in the soundstage (most of the time) and ring out clean and crisp throughout. There’s not much deep or bombastic bass to speak of, as your LFE doesn’t get much of a workout and only serves to prop up certain effects, as well as the film’s score. Dialogue in Young Guns was anchored firmly in the front surrounds and was crisp and discernable at all times.

Artisan has also seen fit to include English Closed Captions, as well as Spanish subtitles.

While the banner of “Special Edition” might have you thinking Artisan has included a mother lode of supplements for the film, but you’d be sadly mistaken. While this new edition is a definite improvement over the original Artisan release, there’s simply not enough here to get too excited about.

First and foremost, Artisan has created some really nice packaging for their Young Guns: Special Edition DVD. It contains a very nice cardboard sleeve for the DVD case to slide in to that opens up and reveals some really nice biographical sketches about each of the six main characters in the film. The amray case also includes a nice eight-page booklet that includes a quick note from actor Casey Siemaszko, a synopsis of the film, some information on a Billy The Kid documentary and Trivia Track included on the DVD, and of course, chapter stops. Nothing jaw dropping to be sure, but a nice inclusion nonetheless.

We also find a newly recorded Audio Commentary with actors Loud Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko - evidently, the ones with nothing better to do. This turns out to be a rather generic “actor’s commentary”, as there was a lot more time spent ribbing each other and cutting up than giving out in-depth or highly informative information about the production. However, that’s fine and good, as that’s really the nature of Young Guns anyway – nothing really serious or worthy of in-depth examination. That being said, these guys do relay some nice anecdotes from behind-the-scenes and point out some interesting moments to the casual viewer (i.e. a Tom Cruise cameo). The track isn’t entirely active, as there are a few moments of dead air, but these are few and far between and never last too terribly long. It’s obvious the group had a great time making the film and enjoyed their time together on the set and that really comes through in Artisan’s commentary – they really seem like an amicable and good-natured bunch. Ultimately, this was a fun track and worth the time investment, but just don’t expect to learn a whole lot outside of some goofy stories about the cast and crew or some fun inside jokes.

Next is the Trivia Track: Gunning For Facts and here, we get interesting trivia factoids popping up throughout the film – according to the insert booklet, “about every thirty to forty seconds”. Implemented much like New Line’s –infinifilm- features, at certain points during the film, certain bits of historical or movie trivia pop-up via a subtitle-like track. While much of the information is ridiculously useless, there are admittedly some informative factoids that show up from time to time and Gunning was a fun extra to watch in order to supplement the film.

Next up is Billy The Kid – The True Story (30:54) and here we get a newly produced documentary based on the real life events of the famed gunslinger. The documentary ties in with the film quite nicely and does a good job of separating the factual events from the fictitious ones. There’s some interesting stuff here and for those of you unfamiliar with Billy The Kid, or his renowned exploits, this is a nice place to start. While a little too short to be a definitive retelling of Billy’s life, this was a really informative and entertaining piece.

Last up is a Young Guns Trailer, that is followed by a Trailer Gallery which includes trailers for other Artisan DVD releases which include Dune, Reservoir Dogs, The Rambo Trilogy, and Total Recall.

While these supplements are a definite improvement over the previous version of the disc and worthy of the “Special Edition” banner, there’s just not a whole lot here to endear most folks to the set. What’s included is nice, but far from impressive.

In a nutshell, Young Guns is a fun romp that doesn’t take itself seriously – and you shouldn’t either. Artisan has given the film a really nice upgrade on DVD and those of you enjoy entertaining films that don’t require too much though or dissection, look no further. The disc is priced right and comes highly recommended to those of you already familiar with Young Guns – if you’ve never seen it, a rental is definitely in order first.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8181 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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