Regulators

A revitalizing western, Young Guns didn’t necessarily restart the western, but did begin to reframe it. Playing loose with morality and turning historical anti-heroes into legends, Young Guns brought an MTV counter-culture slant to a traditionally stiff genre. Audiences no longer craved pure heroes. In came Billy the Kid, rising against a corrupt system.

Depicting the law as an indistinct, easily altered entity, Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) rides with his gang against a local business owner who exerts control over the town. It’s thin and simple – that’s all Young Guns wants or needs.

At the time, Young Guns felt fresh. Now, it feels nostalgic

The pitch is in making the western appeal to modern senses. Hollow bloodshed was an immovable part of genre filmmaking already; Young Guns has plenty, but that wasn’t the primary selling point. Instead, it’s the personalities, who when together, are often framed as if an alt-rock band album cover as an electric guitar backs the action. At the time, Young Guns felt fresh. Now, it feels nostalgic.

Young Guns makes its characters empathetic, a bunch of orphaned kids raised (if that’s the word) by Londoner John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) with a penchant for instilling manners and education. Their rebelliousness is only temporarily paused. With a government still infantile in its design and form, Billy becomes a deputized leader, but without the maturity necessary for such a role.

It’s a film of outrageous massacres, with Billy egotistical and in his own mind, invincible. This isn’t just his film though, and that helps establish Young Gun’s texture. While of the music video mindset, the script takes time to establish Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) and why he joins. There’s a worried leader in Dick Brewer (Charlie Sheen), and the complex needs of Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland) to offset the impossibly thin storyline.

This works because the characters do, and when helplessly surrounded in the finale, the tension isn’t for the lawmen outside to succeed, it’s for the men trapped inside who spent their lives suffering. The only way they feel alive is to kill, then run. For them, it’s purpose. A cause. Most westerns detail the older sheriff; switching the demographics does more than help Young Guns feel refreshed, it completely reshapes the perspective. That’s the jolt needed, and gave studios confidence to once again play in this once old fashioned genre.

Young Guns 4K UHD screen shot

Video

A truly beautiful, fresh 4K master draws out Young Guns’ naturally. A thin veneer of grain doesn’t pose a problem for the encode (with a few brief exceptions), leaving behind only texture. Whether it’s the western landscapes or the close-ups, Young Guns provides, and makes full use of the format.

Dolby Vision firms up the contrast, although it’s slightly warmed, taking some of the top-end energy. That’s okay. The black levels hold enough heft and weight to keep depth a constant. That’s wonderful in nighttime interiors that use limited light, relying on the shadows to deliver the visual power. Crush is inherent to the cinematography, and that isn’t uncommon.

The palette overall, like the contrast, veers toward amber hues. Flesh tones follow, but not enough to diminish the natural qualities. Mostly bathed in earth tones, the warmth aids this color spectrum well. Young Guns isn’t without firm blue skies and can excel in spots, but it’s restricted to match the vintage aesthetic.

Audio

A PCM stereo track is available for those looking for untouched audio, but the default is a Dolby Atmos remix. It’s, at times, too much, but no less an impressive bit of audio mixing. Ambiance on farms or in town keeps a steady flow of audible information sweeping through the soundstage, from horse hooves to cows mooing. Fired bullets echo outward, even into the heights. Stereos remain a constant presence, with a wide split in the fronts that’s equally effective as it is in the rears. While in places it’s too obvious, the effect isn’t negated, nor does it ruin the immersion.

Bass lacks intensity or depth, but does offer an occasional shake from the score to show range.

Extras

The commentary teams up actors Dermot Mulroney, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Casey Siemaszko. A solid 35-minute making of featurette joins a 32-minute piece on Billy the Kid and trailers.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Young Guns
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A next generation western, Young Guns plays to a younger audience than the traditional genre film.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:


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