As the popularity of the western genre began to wane, it surprises me that, years after the twilight era of the Spaghetti and Hollywood westerns had come and gone, many big-name stars were still signing on to appear in dusty, gun-toting pictures. The ensemble assembled through Silverado is one of great pride, featuring the likes of Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, John Cleese, and even Jeff Goldblum. With this amazing cast behind him, director Lawrence Kasdan appeals to the type of audience who like drama and romance, feel-good stories of clear heroes and obvious villains. His approach to Silverado is the films biggest credit, but also the most obvious and glaring downfall of all.
Heroes and villains come and go in Silverado, as we follow a rag-tag foursome of disenfranchised cowboys as they make their way to the titular town. Once there, they don’t do all that much of interest. They spring Jake (Costner) from jail, and get on their merry way with happenstance and coincidence bringing our leading characters together. They then find themselves vaguely in the company of one another, and without much going on that is of intense interest. These leading men are a mixed bunch of talent. Kevin Kline is surprisingly endearing, managing to bring the charms of his lighter roles into a bearded, gruff approach to the western genre. He’s by far the best part of the movie, closely followed by Danny Glover, who offers up a forgettable, but comfortable supporting role.
A few shootouts are littered throughout without much rhyme or reason. They’re well-framed, but ultimately futile and too short. There’s little build-up to these scenes, and it doesn’t look like Kasdan can rustle up the tension all that well. His set and prop design take precedent, far superior and of greater interest to him, rather than the actions of his villains and the shootouts they start. Beyond the leading four, everyone else is wholly forgettable, and it’s a sad shame to see such conviction and dedication in the set design go to waste entirely. Dusty bars, grim surroundings and ultimately well-made costumes go to waste on a film that doesn’t have the co-ordination necessary in its writing.
Ultimately, Silverado feels far too polished for its own good. Sleek characters, slick set-designs and never a moment where a bump or break in the mould appears. For what it’s worth, though, Kline and co-stars make do with what they’re given and provide a wholly competent western. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the technical merits of director Kasdan, but he leaves a lot to be desired from his rather empty command of the camera, trundling his way through a lengthy western that has only a few moments of inspired content.