Setting: the late 1940’s. An old-timer, claiming to be Billy the Kid and wanting the pardon that was promised to him 70 years earlier, begins narrating to a journalist this flashback tale…
Traveling from the New Mexico territory in 1878 to the town of Lincoln, William H. Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid, is asked by the governor to testify against 15 rustlers who murdered Billy’s employer during the Lincoln county cattle wars. The Kid agrees in exchange for a full pardon, but upon learning that the prosecuting attorney wants him dead, changes his mind and, guns blazing, frees the jailed outlaws.
Billy decides to lead his surviving cronies across the border to Mexico, but fellow desperado Pat Garrett drops out of the gang. Their first stop on the trail is to collect a debt from Chisolm, a wealthy, evil cattle baron, whose men they murder when he refuses to pay up. Consequently, Chisolm and the governor hire Pat Garrett, whom is deputized as a sheriff to track down and exterminate Billy the Kid.
After a gory knife fight, an encounter with prostitutes and much murder and violence along the way, Billy is eventually surrounded by Garrett’s men, captured and brought back to hang. However, he escapes from custody, but is confronted again by Garrett who shoots him… or does he? The film leaves it a mystery and simply states that on November 29, 1950, Brushy Bill Roberts was discredited as Billy the Kid.
The real discredit, though, is what the film does to the Western genre. In the golden-age of movies, Westerns were not excessively violent, as this one is. Violent incidents may have been essential to the plot, but they were ritualized, because violence was not the point. However, in this low ironic movie, bodies literally writhe for minutes as they’re riddled with bullets.
Golden-age Westerns, which were often compassionate and lyrical, usually carried a high moral tone, emphasizing the heroic as well as law and order. YOUNG GUNS II, however, a callous and ugly film, portrays upholders of the law as vindictive, retaliatory and vengeful, while the villainous are portrayed as unjustly persecuted. Furthermore, there are jokes about killing people, fornication with prostitutes, full rear female nudity, obscenity, profanity, superstitious Indian beliefs, and the excessive use of alcohol. If you want to see a Western, rent instead HIGH NOON or SHANE, which has exactly one killing and one gunfight.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please address your comments to:
Mr. Barry Diller
20th Century Fox
P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
Several obscenities and profanities; murder, revenge, graphic violence and knife fighting; superstitious Indian beliefs; prostitution and rear female nudity; and, the excessive use of alcohol.