Right up front, let’s get this out of the way – “Silverado” is an extremely funny movie and at the same time, a great Western story. If you enjoy movies, enjoy humor and enjoy Westerns, this is the movie for you!
“Silverado” opens with Emmett (Scott Glenn) killing three men who ambush him in a shack on the edge of a cliff. Emmett, on his way to Silverado, then finds Paden (Kevin Kline) dying in the desert and saves him, loaning him a horse until they reach Turley, where Emmett is to meet up with his brother Jake (Kevin Costner).
While in Turley, Emmett and Paden meet and befriend Mal Johnson (Danny Glover), who saves their lives the next day as they’re being run down by a posse after Emmett breaks Paden and Jake out of jail, saving both from being hung.
They eventually all wind up in “Silverado” and run afoul of a rancher, who wants them all dead and tries to accomplish that goal by using his bought-and-paid-for sheriff (Brian Dennehy). Emmett and Jake have a past with the rancher, and Paden used to ride with the sheriff. Mal’s father is killed for his property, so everyone is properly motivated to fight for themselves, their families and the town. Throw in an enchanting saloon keeper, a crooked gambler and a sister-turned-prostitute, and you have the makings for a wild ending, which is exactly what we get.
Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner and Danny Glover play the leads. John Cleese, Linda Hunt, Brian Dennehy (perfectly evil), Jeff Goldblum, Lynn Whitfeld, Joe Seneca and Rosanna Arquette have terrific supporting roles. Lawrence Kasdan produced, directed and co-wrote “Silverado.” He even had several family members with small roles. Hard not to call it a “Kasdan Production.”
The movie was shot primarily in New Mexico on property belonging to Bill and Marian Cook, alongside the Galisteo River. John Bailey, director of photography, did a spectacular job of bringing the beautiful, and sometimes haunting, countryside to life. The scene with Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy) walking toward the camera with a building burning behind him was alone worth the price of admission.
I first saw “Silverado” on the big screen with friends. One of those with us was what we then described as a “movie buff.” I commented that the opening couple of minutes of “Silverado” were my favorite opening minutes since “The Big Chill.” I even noted that there were some similarities. My movie-enthusiast friend pointed out what is now obvious: both films were directed by Lawrence Kasdan, a man I had not heard of, since I didn’t read reviews or pay much attention to movie credits, at least not beyond the topline stars.
That was an eye-opener for me, an epiphany as far as movie watching went. I may have come late to the party, but I began to look for more than big-name movie stars. I also started paying attention to who produced, directed and wrote each movie, and perhaps even who did the cinematography or wrote the music. As a result, I discovered quite a few films I otherwise would have missed.
The beginning minutes of “Silverado” and “The Big Chill” are still my two favorite movie-opening scenes of all time.
Kevin Costner had a role in “The Big Chill,” Lawrence Kasdan’s hit dramedy. After Kasdan cut the flashback scenes out of the movie, Costner’s only scene was as a corpse, without even showing his face. Removing the flashback scenes probably made for a better movie, but it was also likely devastating to a young actor whose star role was left on the cutting room floor. Kasdan promised Costner a role in a future film, which turned out to be “Silverado.”