Billy the Kid is back, Jack! And boy howdy is it… a movie that was made. As the authorities in New Mexico try to reign in the remnants of the Regulators, they start arresting the whole gang, inadvertently bringing them back together. Back on the run, they are pursued by an old ally, Pat Garrett. Can they escape before it’s too late? Find out in… Young Guns II.
How?! Unfortunately this film is bookended by a weird sequence that supposes that the conspiracy theory that Billy the Kid survived to old age is true (hint: it’s not) but whatevs. We learn that after the events of the first film (which we all know by heart), Billy the Kid continues his wild ways with a new crew. Unfortunately, Doc Scurlock and Chavez are brought back into the mix as the authorities of New Mexico try to arrest and do away with Billy the Kid and his associates. Seeing the writing on the wall, Billy makes a deal with the Governor to get a pardon, but is arrested instead. As a result he doesn’t just escape jail, he also frees Doc and Chavez for one more go around. Like the asshole that he is, Billy promises that they’ll escape to Mexico, but instead leads the new gang around having fun. Meanwhile a former member of the gang, Pat Garrett, is offered the job of sheriff in order to hunt down Billy and the gang. He pursues them to a house of sin, where through trickery Billy and the gang escape again. Soon thereafter the gang learns that they were never heading to Mexico, but it’s too late… Garrett is there and most of the gang is killed trying to escape, including Chavez and Doc. Billy is captured and even though he ends up escaping he is sad to find the gang dead and scattered. Eventually cornered by Garrett again, Billy begs to just let him go on to Mexico and eventually he relents (confirming the conspiracy story). Thus Billy the Kid lives happily ever after… until the sequel! THE END.
Why?! Who knows. Billy the Kid is portrayed as a rambunctious kid with no plan and a death wish (which mostly just results in the deaths of everyone around him). There is no reason for anything in this film. They aren’t trying to get money or anything… just kinda a general sense of revenge and doing crazy stuff. At least the first had some reason for the events. Here Billy just comes off like a crazy asshole.
Who?! The funnest fact of all is that Jon Bon Jovi and Tom Cruise appear unbilled in the first Young Guns film. Even funner is that Jon Bon Jovi apparently was so thrilled with the experience that he came back for more, appearing unbilled and in Young Guns II AND did all of the songs for the soundtrack AND that was his debut solo album! The more I write about it the crazier it all seems. I can only assume that he and Estevez were like super pals or something.
What?! I think most people were probably put off by the scene where Billy the Kid decides to put away his childish ways and grow up, but then takes a swig of Mountain Dew and winks at the camera. But I thought it was a bold acting choice by Estevez. There is also a surprising number of props for sale for a film that pretty much everyone forgets exists… like check out this wanted poster for Doc that is apparently authentic and unfortunately sold out for the low, low price of $145.
Where?! New Mexico, baby. Very solid setting given that the state is somewhat rare and it’s kind of mentioned all the time. Historically necessary to the plot as well… I mean, I think I have to give this a solid A.
When?! Since this is a historical film, you would have to assume it sticks to the idea that this all took place in 1881. The bookends apparently take place in 1950, meaning that Emilio Estevez in old man makeup is portraying a… like 90 year old. Alright, that’s crazy town. What is he, Clint Eastwood? A-.
It’s super weird to realize that in the late 80’s there weren’t just major Westerns being made, but like hip and rad Westerns starring dope teen heartthrobs. The first film is a much better representation of that as it’s a tale of revenge (classic) and honestly, other than some funny opening sequences of everyone being like “wahoooo, shoot some guns,” is played pretty straight with solid acting all around. Estevez’s take on Billy is in particular quite good and there’s some funny bits in there as well. The sequel though lacks all of that purpose. No more revenge. No nothing really other than Billy and the gang getting hunted down. And they don’t even pay that off. Instead they just lean into the conspiracy that he was still alive. They could have made the film about how Billy had to die. He was a shooting star that was destined to fall. But nah, nothing matters and he’s alive as an old man in bad old man makeup looking like Jean Claude Van Damme a la The Quest. Don’t worry about the plot of the film because he survived and is just a shitty old man that led all his friends to their deaths… so I guess I’d sum it up by saying I wish it had something interesting to say and then maybe it wouldn’t have been totally forgotten to time. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! I cannot wait until they make Old Guns to finish up this trilogy (it is more likely than you think …). Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – My perception of this film was that it was going to be like … electric guitars and a “young actors version of a western in 1990”. Which admittedly would have been amazing and rad. The trailer and original film told a different story. As the original film was pretty good, I was intrigued as to why the second was considered so bad. What were my expectations? I guess for it to just be the first movie again? A tale as old as time as to why a sequel to a successful film ends up being panned by critics.
The Good – The acting in the film is still good, especially Estevez who I think created quite an interesting character with his giggly psychotic Billy the Kid (in both films). I would have been pretty skeptical, given how the first film ended, that they would have had much of a “true” story to tell in the second, but there was quite a lot to work with given the events that lead up to Billy the Kid’s death. And yeah, the true story aspect was interesting. During both films I found myself reading a ton of Billy the Kid history on wikipedia, and they seemed like they did a decent job with both films in the end. Best Bit: Interesting historical story.
The Bad – The worst part was probably the bookends (which you could maybe tell they knew about at the time since there is nary of whisper of old-man-Estevez in the marketing material), the dumb story of a con man pretending to be Billy the Kid in the 50s is just not very interesting. The film also just feels very muddled. They want to have this lingering question of Billy being alive at the end, when the actual interesting bit was the manhunt a la Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The whittled down ensemble is much less impressive in the second, and they also unnecessarily kill a bunch of them when that didn’t happen in real life which was annoying. Fatal Flaw: Bookend segments.
The BMT – As we go through sequels I think we’ve managed to capture quite a few films which had great / surprisingly good initial films and terrible / surprisingly bad sequels. That is obviously the trope, but it makes me wonder whether that is anomalous in BMT history. Anyways, this is a bad western, which is a rarity. But, it is also a little too genuine to be fun, so I doubt I’ll ever revisit it. Did it meet my expectations? It mostly defied them. I expected them to crank up the electric guitar to 1000% and lean into all of the worst bits of the first and create an abomination. Instead it was an interesting movie with decent acting which just failed to be well made and really sunk itself with the bookend segments. I wonder if it wouldn’t have been BMT at all without those bookends … we’ll never know.
Roast-radamus – Basically only can get Setting as a Character (Where?) for New Mexico … long ago we did The Host as New Mexico, a movie I genuinely just don’t remember the plot of. Why didn’t we do this movie? Anyways, closest to Good I think.
Prequel, Sequel, Remake – The obvious answer to the question is Prequel, as that is really the only place you can go with it. Prior to the first film you have Billy the Kid, orphan, gunslinger, and genuine psycho just starting out in life. Fifteen, working in a boarding house for food, and stealing whenever and whatever he can get his hands on. The story would mainly focus on his time in and around Bonita where he is stealing horses for a living and gaining his original Kid Antrim name, and several run ins with the eeeeeevil Francis Cahill (fictionalized, probably just a dick … I’ve read just the Wikipedia page). The film culminates with him shooting Cahill, turning himself in, and then, realizing his life is already over, laughing and escaping. The end of the film is him in a saloon in Lincoln County and asking someone who the dapper gentleman is. “Oh, that’s John Henry Tunstall, he raises cattle.” The end. Obviously it is called Youngest Gun.
You Just Got Schooled – And that is a perfect introduction to the review of the original Young Guns. First, I’ll say that I quite enjoyed the film. I was surprised that it is an actual western. I figured it was going to be a silly electric-guitar faux-western or something given the brat pack cast. And the story is very interesting. If you trust Wikipedia it seems like quite a good telling of the Lincoln County War which I hadn’t really heard of before as I hadn’t ever really read up on Billy the Kid before. Estevez’s performance in particular is really rather good. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but his psychotic giggling is just pitch perfect for a character where you are like “wait … is this guy a sociopath?” … he is. B+. Kind of like Wyatt Earp, it is a film mostly interesting because of its historical context, but enjoyable if you like westerns I think.