'Silverado' now on Netflix

“Silverado” was a 1985 film that sought to recapture some of the tropes of westerns that had been popular on the big and small screen but whyich, by the time it premiered, had fallen out of favor. The movie starred Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, and Kevin Costner as a group of men whose separate journeys lead them to the town of Silverado and a confrontation with a ruthless rancher and his henchmen. The bad guys are trying to keep settlers out of the territory and to preserve an open range to feed the rancher’s cattle. The movie had a talented supporting cast that included Jeff Goldblum. Linda Hunt, Brian Dennehy, John Cleese, and Roseanna Arquette.

“Silverado” lacks the western revisionism that characterized later movies, such as Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” and Costner’s later “Dances with Wolves.” The movie was a throwback to an earlier era of western filmmaking with good guys vs bad guys, glorious scenery, and kinetic action. Had the movie been made twenty or thirty years before, John Wayne would have been in the Scott Glenn role.

Each of the main characters endured injustice at the hands of authority. Their experiences give them more than enough motivation to, paraphrasing, “Do what men gotta do.” The one nod to more modern sensibilities is the fact that Danny Glover and his family are victims of racism, an issue that was not often touched on in the westerns of yesteryear.

One delight that modern audiences will find in Silverado is the performance of a young Kevin Costner, a man who usually plays more stoic characters, but in this instance brings a youthful zest to the role of a young gunslinger. Costner’s character finds fun in everything, whether it iss flirting with saloon girls, breaking out of jail, or going toe to toe with the bad guys with his two six-guns.

The exuberance with which “Silverado” approached its subject matter is echoes in the musical score, which leans toward the epic rather than the subtle. The music adds to the wild, horseback chases and exciting gunfights that permeate the movie.

“Silverado” was not a big hit when it first ran, but it made a respectable amount at the box office and a profit for the studio. The critics were primarily positive, with a few exceptions who found the film to be just a little much. In any case, Netflix subscribers, many who have likely never heard of the movie, will have a chance to spend some time in the Old West of the imagination if not of historical reality.