Despite the fact that Westerns have sort of fallen off the map in recent years, there has existed a few bright spots, such as Kevin Costner's "Open Range". The picture, a project Costner was passionate about and invested a great deal of energy in, was a tense and well-acted piece that grossed considerably more at the box office than many expected.
Costner also makes an appearance in Lawrence Kasdan's "Silverado", a now 20-year-old Western that stands as one of the shining examples of the genre - a big, entertaining ride that still manages to present the grand scope and staples of the old-school classics in the genre.
There's not a great deal to the story, but it's the kind of Western tale that fits as comfortably as an old shoe. Paden (Kevin Kline) and Emmett (Scott Glenn) find themselves heading to break out Paden's younger, wilder brother (Kevin Costner). The two became friends when Emmett saved Paden after he was left in the desert. After a jail break, Paden's brother joins the duo, as does Mal (Danny Glover), a black man fighting against racism in the West.
All of the men are headed to the town of Silverado for various reasons, but all of them will run up against the town's evil sheriff (Brian Dennehy). Kasdan's film manages a superb balance between scenes of tense Western action and character moments - the film's drama doesn't overwhelm the fun of the film, but story and character don't take a backseat, either. The picture is magnificently scored by Bruce Broughton and John Bailey's beautiful 'scope cinematography is classic.
The performances are also excellent. Rarely throughout his career has Costner appeared to be having this much fun, and Kevin Kline and especially Scott Glenn deliver terrific performances. Danny Glover also delivers a very fine effort, as well. Rosanna Arquette doesn't have a whole lot to do in a supporting role, but John Cleese and Brian Dennehy are superb.
Overall, "Silverado" is a Western with the classic elements and flavor intact, yet it takes all the classic elements and manages to still stand out on its own. The performances, writing and direction are fantastic, and the picture's action and drama are definitely engaging.
VIDEO: "Silverado" is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen for this release, which is really one of Columbia/Tristar's best recent efforts, despite the presence of some minor faults. The picture, which is enjoying its 20th anniversary, looks fresh and crisp here, as the image appeared consistently crisp and well-defined, with only a few minor shots that looked a bit softer than the rest.
The picture's only real issue is some minor edge enhancement at times. Aside from that, the picture appeared clean, with no noticable instances of pixelation or shimmer. Some minor dirt is visible at times, but this was hardly visible and not distracting. The color palette is faithfully reproduced here, with no smearing or other issues. Black level appeared solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. Overall, pretty terrific.
SOUND: "Silverado" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 on this release. Considering the film's age, this was a fine presentation. The majority of the audio came from the front, and the front soundstage was nice and wide. Effects, although sounding slightly thin at times, generally came across crisply and clearly. Dialogue and score both sounded crisp and clear - score came across sounding especially rich and warm. Surrounds aren't called upon to do a whole lot, but they do reinforce the score at times and provide a few minor background effects. The DTS track sounded a bit tighter and crisper, but the differences were minor.
EXTRAS: historians Frank Thompson, Steve Aaron and Paul Hutton offer an audio commentary for the film. The three realize that this is a work of fiction, but still do discuss historical accuracy, as well as myths of the genre and some tidbits on the film's production.
The second disc starts off with a program that has Kevin Costner recalling his days working on "Silverado". As he did on the DVD of his "Open Range", Coster really provides a lot of insight in his discussions, as he talks about some of the negative feelings he had towards the role, production issues, casting, direction and acting in a Western picture.
We also get the previously-seen documentary, "The Making of Silverado", which offers interviews with writer/director Kasdan, the actors and others. The documentary offers a lot of stories from the production as well as information about how some of the scenes were completed. Overall, this is an entertaining featurette that gives a good general overview of the production.
Finally, there's a promo for Columbia/Tristar's other Western movies, as well as the trailer for "Silverado" and promos for other titles from the company. A deck of cards is included in the case, as well as a booklet. The case is cute (it even has movable saloon doors once you take the box out of the slipcase), but the package as a whole is a bit bulky and awkward.
Final Thoughts: "Silverado" is a great deal of fun - it's a Western with all the classic elements that still feels fresh and energetic. The performances, writing, cinematography, score and direction are all simply wonderful. Columbia/Tristar's DVD set is also quite nice, with very good image quality, as well as fine audio. The supplements are also worthwhile. Considering the low price (I've seen it for around $14-15), this set is definitely worth looking into for both fans and those new to the movie.