Young Guns II: Blaze of Glory (1990) Directed by Geoff Murphy. With Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, Alan Ruck and William Petersen.
Geoff Murphy takes the directorial reigns for Young Guns II: Blaze of Glory, adding cinematic richness on top of a more soulful, matured approach to the storytelling than the previous outing. Continuing from the first film, which ran with the idea of creating its own mythology around known historical facts, this sequel is clever in the way it adopts the mythology of what actually became of Billy the Kid, accenting the rumours of his survival of the Lincoln County War as a set-up for a film that, once again, stars Emilio Estevez as the larger than life, trigger-happy ‘Kid’.
The catalyst for the story here (John Fusco returning as screenwriter with more quotable dialogue) is James Coburn’s John Chisum, a wealthy cattle baron who hires Pat Garrett to lead the hunt for Billy. As Garrett, actor William Petersen is excellent, playing the conflict of a man torn between loyalty and the preservation of his own path.
All but gone are the cheesy electric guitars of the first film, as composer Alan Silvestri introduces more authentic musical themes to heighten the horseplay. Back in the saddle are Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, bringing a sense of investment and continuity as they fight battles internally and externally, as to their association with the most wanted man in the land. The themes of friendship and loyalty that underpinned the first film are brought fully to the fore for the sequel, which improves both technically and dramatically on the first outing.
In no small way, Young Guns, and to some extent this sequel, observe the joyful abandon of youthfulness, but also the inevitability of the break up of the band. It’s why Young Guns II is more resonant than the first movie, with Estevez’s unmannerly portrayl of Billy the Kid being forced into a corner, facing the prospect of losing what matters most to him, not only his ‘pals’, but something much worse, their loyalty. 4/5