It’s probably the best feeling Western made since the heyday of Roy Rogers. It’s specially crafted to make us feel good. There’s no disturbing subtext, and it takes a very modern approach to the issue of racism. Yes, there is racism but only the bad guys exhibit it. And there’s no injuns, because you can’t have injuns in a Western nowadays without it dwelling on the redman’s plight and that’s just too depressing. That’s what this film gives you: the fun myth of Manifest Destiny without the sad reality of the subjugation of the native peoples.

Yes, when we were kids we played cowboys and indians, but now we feel guilty about it. Thankfully, when we were kids we also played white hat vs. black hat. Good guys with six shooters versus bad guys with six shooters. That’s what Silverado taps into: the cool, still politically correct aspects of the Western. Good fun without the guilt. That’s something Kasdan knows how to do. He wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark that conjured up a similar formula for the old pulp serials.

That’s not to say the characters are simplistic. They compare quite favorably to characters in such classic old Westerns as Stagecoach. They just don’t have the kind of depressing depth of character that you see in The Searchers. There are good guys and there are bad guys and there really isn’t much doubt which is which. Still, there is really only one unsympathetic character in the whole film and that would Jeff Fahey’s Tyree. You’ve got to have one really dirty dog in the movie, after all. The two main bad guys are Ray Baker’s underdeveloped Ethan McKendrick and the charming Cobb played by Brian Dennehy. It’s probably Dennehy’s best performance. He’s Claudius in the old West, “that a man may smile and be a villain!” Yeah, those are the best villains, not the dreary scowling ones.

It’s probably the best feeling Western made since the heyday of Roy Rogers. It’s specially crafted to make us feel good. There’s no disturbing subtext, and it takes a very modern approach to the issue of racism. Yes, there is racism but only the bad guys exhibit it. And there’s no injuns, because you can’t have injuns in a Western nowadays without it dwelling on the redman’s plight and that’s just too depressing. That’s what this film gives you: the fun myth of Manifest Destiny without the sad reality of the subjugation of the native peoples.

Fine supporting performances are turned in by John Cleese as a sheriff with the intelligence to know when he’s run across the heroes of a Western, Joe Seneca as Danny Glover’s father, Lynn Whitfield as Glover’s sister, the scrumptious Amanda Wyss as phoebe the barmaid, Jeff Goldblum as the gambler Slick whose alliances are always up in the air, and a curiously uncredited Brion James as the curmudgeonly coot who leads a wagon train.

The plot revolves around the old conflict between farmers and ranchers. If you think about it now I’m sure you could successfully guess all the plot points ahead of time, but when you’re watching it the movie’s energy takes over and you just enjoy the roller coaster ride of fun and excitement!

Good, clean fun about a time we know was neither, but in the movies it can be.

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