Walking home after the second Western was over at the Princess Theater, we'd play the roles we had seen on the screen. We were 7 or 8 years old at the time, but we didn't have the slightest difficulty in identifying with the cowboys in the movies. All of their motives were transparently clear to us - except, possibly, why anyone would want to kiss a girl when he could be practicing his lasso tricks instead. The Westerns I remember from those days have been filtered through a golden haze of time, but the one thing I am sure I remember correctly is that they were fun. They were high-spirited, joyous, anarchic movies in which overgrown adolescents jumped on their horses and whooped and waved their hats in the air, and rode as fast as the wind to the next town and the next adventure.
"Silverado" is a Western like that. I mean the comparison to be praise. This movie is more sophisticated and complicated than the Westerns of my childhood, and it is certainly better looking and better acted. But it has the same spirit; it awards itself the carefree freedom of the Western myth itself - the myth of a nation "endlessly realizing Westward," as Robert Frost had it, with limitless miles of prairie and desert and mountain interrupted only occasionally by a village with a church, six saloons and a Main Street wide enough for a dozen men to shoot at each other without all of them necessarily getting hit.
"Silverado'' is the work of Lawrence Kasdan, the man who wrote "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and it has some of the same reckless brilliance about it. It's the story of four cowboys who join up together, ride into town, refuse to knuckle under to the corrupt sheriff and end up fighting for justice. This is a story, you will agree, that has been told before. What distinguishes Kasdan's telling of it is the style and energy he brings to the project.
The cowboys include a sweet-faced young man who hopes to make his fortune (Kevin Kline), his goofy brother (Kevin Costner), a black man who vows to avenge his father's murder (Danny Glover) and a taciturn loner (Scott Glenn) who gets restless when he's not a long way from civilization. They meet along the way, after Glenn saves Kline from death in the desert, and together they help Costner escape from jail. Joining up with Glover, they ride on into the next town, Silverado, which is dominated by a slick sheriff (Brian Dennehy) and a gambling saloon run by a formidably competent little woman named Stella (Linda Hunt, in a scene-stealing performance).