In this version of the legend of Billy the Kid – set during an important frontier war – the young William H Bonney joins a wealthy rancher’s gang of young guns.
When the rancher, English expat John Tunstall (Terence Stamp,) is murdered by ruthless landowner Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance), the gang swear to avenge him, but their vigilante actions as ‘the Regulators’ put them on the wrong side of the law – and make Bonney the most wanted man in the West.
Emilio Estevez plays Billy the Kid and is joined by a good proportion of the 1980s Brat Pack – including Kiefer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock and Lou Diamond Phillips as José Chavez y Chavez – in this attempt to breathe new life into the western.
The movie’s casual violence, breakneck pace and relentless hard-rock score offended purists, though, at 26, Estevez was closer in age to the real Billy (who died aged 22) than most previous actors.
Notorious bounty hunter Buckshot Roberts (Brian Keith) turns up for the famous gunfight at Blazer’s Mills. So that you know he’s evil, he is dressed like a giant, bedraggled grey duckling, in a fur coat made up of bits of chewed-up wolf.
Though it reduces its characters to cartoons, the film’s design is impressively authentic. The outlaws look like outlaws and while the heroes have generally escaped the worst excesses of tufty facial hair and rotten teeth, the fact that at least some of the characters are sporting these is a decent effort.
A 1990 sequel – imaginatively titled Young Guns II – once again starred Estevez, Sutherland and Diamond Phillips who were joined by Christian Slater, Balthazar Getty and Alan Ruck as the other young gunfighters on the run in Mexico.
William “Billy the Kid” Bonney
Josiah “Doc” Scurlock
José Chavez y Chavez
Lou Diamond Phillips
“Dirty Steve” Stephens
John Henry Tunstall
Lawrence G Murphy