"Silverado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger; your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home, and freedom, oh freedom, well, that's just some people talkin'! Your prison is walking through this world all alone!" Man, it's hard to "write" a "parody" of that lyric without choking up, although, in all fairness, I think I'd cry out of frustration if I heard about Eagles' "Desperado" being parodied. Yeah, you know that this would be a cheesy parody if it was one, not necessarily because it stars John Cleese, formerly of Monty Python, but because it's a western that was released between the mid-'80s and the '90s with a cast featuring Kevin Costner... in addition to Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Linda Hunt and Brian Dennehy. Wow, this is one heck of a cast, although if one of the many stars isn't of questionable credibility, then he or she is someone you really wouldn't expect in a western, and one directed, produced and co-written by the guy who co-wrote the last two installments of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, on top of all that. Wow, this was either one of the most ambitious westerns of the 1980s or, well, a disaster waiting to happen, kind of like a parody of Eagles' "Desperado". Well, people, while this film is hardly as moving of a portrait on cowboyin' as that song, it is plenty of fun, at least until it dries up.
Now, as much as I praise this film for being, at the very least, fun, entertainment value takes some blows from surprising quiet spots whose dryness is blanding, if not a little dull, at least compared to livelier tones which would be more colorful if they were more consistent, alternating between melodramatics and often over-the-top fluff, while still managing to keep consistently cheesy. When the film isn't histrionic, the overt cheese has a tendency to reflect a certain placement of style over substance, which is limited to begin with by some expository issues, which mold a lacking immediate development segment, followed by a body that puts very little attention to especially layered characterization, despite all of the material padding. Momentum at least feels retarded because of the aforecited atmospheric cold spells, but limpness hardly ends within the direction, as the screenplay also drags plays an instrumental role in getting this film to drag its feet to a very unreasonable runtime of 133 minutes, with some aimless filler, and plenty of forced-feeling plotting material that reflects an ambition to make the drama more than it probably can be. Adventurous and often dramatically weighty, but ultimately inconsequential, this film boasts a near-fluffy story whose interpretation makes matters worse with overambition that is about as reflective of the story's natural shortcomings as the story's sheer familiarity. I've heard many hammer on the film as derivative of most every clichéd western, and while this film isn't that unoriginal, it's further from being all that original, hitting trope after trope, and hard, until shamelessly devolving to predictability. The film is borderline trite, and that overwhelming conventionalism, mixed with all of the thin dramatics, inconsistencies and bloating, really shake up momentum, until the final product falls pretty firmly into underwhelminginess. With that said, while the film has your attention, it keeps a fair grip, firmed up partly by highlights in style.
Bruce Broughton's score is conventional and unevenly played with in this formulaic and often surprisingly quiet film, but it's still reasonably effective with its sweep and hint of bite, whose aesthetic appeal is rivaled by cinematography by John Bailey that, while flat in a lot of ways, is generally clean in coloration, and tasteful in lighting which places a fine polish over immersive art direction by William A. Elliott. Outside of this western art direction, which one might not even consider a form of style, style is not especially prominent, but it is there, coloring up a thin and conventional story that, quite frankly, is still fairly intriguing enough on paper to hold its own color. This story is dramatically lacking, but still lively in scale as a sometimes rather intimate adventure western, further livened up by a script by Lawrence Kasdan and Mark Kasdan that delivers on some decent humor and inspired dramatic touches. Of course, it's Kasdan's directorial storytelling which anchors both style and substance, despite overstylization and some tonal flimsiness, doing a decent job of playing with flashy style, particularly during tight action sequences, while keeping generally controlled enough to entertain throughout the final product's overdraw course. Sure, there are plenty of slow spells amidst this overdrawn plot, but storytelling from offscreen talent still endears, even if it hardly proves to be quite as charming as the onscreen performances. Naturally, if this film is noted for nothing else, it is a solid ensemble cast, highlights by sharp chemistry that is found across the board, between star talents who are charismatic enough by their own individual right, whether it be Kevin Kline as a bright, but flawed leader, or Scott Glenn as a man of challenged honor, or Kevin Costner as a charmingly eccentric gunman, or Danny Glover as a guilty gunman looking to turn his life around for the sake of respect and loved ones' well-being. These lead performances are but a few of many commendable performances out of a respectable, star-studded cast, but they do not endear single-handedly, because through all of its aspects which are either lazy or overblown is a pretty decent western, in spite of the shakes to entertainment value.
When it's time to come to your senses (Ah, I can't get "Desperado" out of my head now!), it's hard to disregard certain natural shortcomings to a story concept whose execution is too periodically atmospherically chilled, tonal uneven, underdeveloped, overdrawn and formulaic for the final product to transcend an underwhelminginess which is still firmly challenged by the appealing scoring, cinematography and art direction, and endearing writing, direction and acting which make Lawrence Kasdan's "Silverado" an adequately entertaining, maybe even fun, if forgettable tribute to traditional western adventures.
2.5/5 - Fair