Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
3.5 stars
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Silverado

Street Date:
September 8th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Drew Taylor
Review Date: 1
November 19th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
1989
Studio:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Length:
132 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The western always seems to be on the verge of a comeback every few years, usually spurred on by a director who was shaped by the genre in their youth. Most recently this was on the verge of happening back in 2007, when a whole host of westerns, both literally and "spiritually" turned out to be the best films of the year. But even the mighty line-up of '3:10 to Yuma,' 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,' 'There Will Be Blood' and 'No Country for Old Men' couldn't stir the western genre up from its cinematic purgatory. (Just ask Ed Harris, whose woefully underrated western 'Appaloosa' was released the following year.)

In 1985, Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' 'The Empire Strikes Back,' and 'Return of the Jedi,' and writer-director of thriller 'Body Heat' and the drama 'The Big Chill,' traded on all the goodwill he had in Hollywood to attempt a western revival. That attempt was 'Silverado,' a spunky and fun comic western in the classical tradition.

The film opens with Emmett (Scott Glenn), fending off several assassins while hiding inside a small shack. After taking off on his horse, Emmett runs into Paden (Kevin Kline), a man who has been left objectless in the middle of the desert, double-crossed and left for dead by his partners. The two make haste for the titular town of Silverado, stopping in the town of Turley to bust Emmett's brother Jake (Kevin Costner) out of prison and out of the clutches of a snooty English sheriff (John Cleese, stealing every scene). The trio finally escapes Turley, along with a new friend, sharpshooter Mal (Danny Glover).

The foursome, once they reach the town of Silverado, go their separate ways, and are knocked down a peg or two by various forces. (Hey, that's the narrative rule - get your hero up into a tree, throw rocks at him for two hours, and get him out of the tree as smoothly as possible.) But eventually our heroes are reunited and band together to rid the town of its tyrannical sheriff (professional scenery chewer Brian Dennehy).

There isn't a whole lot of plot weighing down 'Silverado,' which is sort of refreshing. With a cast as universally superb as the one assembled here, Kasdan has chosen to make a shaggy, character-based western, which is content to hit the familiar western beats, but only if there's an equally powerful character moment to go along with it. Everybody is just great. I haven't even mentioned Linda Hunt as a Silverado barmaid, Jeff Goldblum as a morally ambiguous card shark, and Jeff Fahey as a goon. Costner (who played the corpse in 'The Big Chill'), in particular, gives a livewire performance the likes of which haven't been seen from the actor before or since.

As a writer of brilliant genre screenplays, Kasdan is clearly having a ball with 'Silverado.' Far removed from the grim, humorless, post-'Unforgiven' westerns of more recent years, it's a bubbly, wonderful entertainment. If you haven't seen 'Silverado' in a number of years (as I hadn't), then now is a perfect time to revisit it. It's a whole lot of fun. Is it flawless? No. It's 127 running time seems like it could be shaved by at least twenty minutes, and even at its bloated length there seems to be a number of subplots that were left either dangling (like the purpose of Patricia Arquette's character) or entirely on the cutting room floor. Still, for a popcorn movie this long, it rides along swiftly, with an abundance of thrills, chills, and spills (as they say). And at PG-13, it's fun the whole family can enjoy, violent but not excessively so. While 'Silverado' didn't rejuvenate the western any more than the crop of 2007 films did, it still remains a wonderfully fun, timeless western.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (2.40:1 aspect ratio) on this 50GB disc is really, truly great. Even though the movie isn't terribly old (it was released in 1985), as far as older movies go, this is a really wonderful transfer.

There's a fair amount of grain, but never a distracting amount. There's just a fine layer, one that makes it look like an actual movie and not a hologram.

The first thing you'll notice is the level of detail. This being a western, every bit of production-designed minutiae (the stitching on Danny Glover's gloves, the different gloves, the saddles - everything) really stands out. It just looks like a million bucks and undoubtedly offers a marked improvement over previous home video iterations.

Colors pop, skin tones look great, and there aren't any technical glitches or DNR-related nonsense. This is just a great, natural-looking presentation and probably the best the movie's looked since it arrived in theaters.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Just as good as the video on this disc is its lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix. This being a western, horse hooves gallop, bullets ricochet, and debris flies through the dusty air - and this is all lovingly, exactingly recreated in a truly dynamic surround mix. These effects, with superb directionality, really bring the movie to life.

Additionally, Bruce Broughton's Oscar-nominated score really soars on this track. It's a classic western-type score, at times optimistic, at times filled with dread, but always impressive. Hearing it boom out of this mix is nothing short of grand, while never overwhelming the effects or dialogue contained within a given scene.

Speaking of dialogue - the many quips the characters make all sound marvelous here. It's clear and crisp and well prioritized and is always audible, no matter what the effects or score are doing. As I've said before, the characters are just as important (if not more so) as any of the western conventions, and this sound mix does a great service to this.

As far as hiss, glitches, pops, or any of the other technical issues, well, they're just not present. Instead, you get a wonderfully full and atmospheric sound mix that will do any surround sound setup, big or small, justice.

Other audio tracks included are in French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Subtitles included are in English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

'Silverado' is packaged in the digi-book format, a la 'The Green Mile,' with a little booklet full of glossy photos, a little essay and cast bios, and original posters (like the awesome, Drew Struzan-style illustrated poster by Bob Peak).

Also, this disc is Region "free." Order away, Australian readers!

  • Along the Western Trail: Western Historians' Commentary This track features noted western historians Frank Thompson, Paul Hutton, and Steve Aaron. I know what you're thinking - wow, a commentary by a bunch of western nerds and not one with the dude that wrote 'Empire Strikes Back.' I hear you, too, and was skeptical when I chose this special feature. About two seconds afterwards, all my fears vanished. This is one of the best, funniest, most entertaining and informative commentary tracks I have heard in a long, long time. These guys know a lot about westerns and even more about the actual old west, but they're also incredibly savvy. One of the guys worked on Ron Howard's 'The Missing,' another worked on the ill-fated 'Alamo' movie from a few years ago. And as astute as they are about the historical inaccuracies they're just as on-point about the movie's narrative shortcomings. This commentary is a few years old (one of them mentions that "the first great gay western is being filmed right now"), but is seriously one of the better commentaries I have heard in a long time. I loved it. Highly recommended.
  • A Return to Silverado with Kevin Costner
  • The Making of Silverado (SD, 37:01) This feature combines talking head interviews with from the time of 'Silverado's original theatrical release, as well as later, retrospective interviews. All the principles are accounted for here, from both the cast and crew (you've got to love Kasdan's laconic, mumbled delivery), but this little doc lacks some much-needed zing. As it stands, it's a kind of awkward, half-hearted tribute to a much beloved film, but if you're a diehard fan, you could do worse than waste 40 minutes on this.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There is one HD extra. And that HD extra is terrible.

  • Movie IQ I'm going to go ahead and quote my review from 'Quick & the Dead' to describe this dumb-ass new BD-Live feature. The only difference between 'Quick & the Dead' and 'Silverado' is that there are more anecdotes and fun facts for 'Silverado' because people actually like this movie. Anyway, what I said before: This is a brand new special feature that is debuting on a host of Sony releases and is really, very dumb. According to the box, it's "real time-in movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live." Yes, this is a BD-Live feature, and from the BD-Live menu you can watch a little preview of how the system works, but it's so simplistic I will just explain it here. It's kind of like a U-Control thing. There's a small icon in the right hand corner. When you hit it, you can access various information that's scene specific - who is in the scene you're watching, what the music cue is called, and any trivia they throw your way. The "trivia" is asinine and can be brought up on any fan site and the most annoying thing is that they don't tell you when there are new facts available in the little widget, so you just have to keep checking it, like you're checking your email, until you read something that you find remotely interesting. These moments are few and far between and this dopey special feature does nothing for the BD-Live cause. It's just a waste of time and not recommended in the slightest.

Final Thoughts

'Silverado' remains a charming and beguiling comedic western. It's full of wonderful actors (Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum - it's an embarrassment of riches!) playing really great characters, in a classic tale of good versus evil in the old west. If you're a fan of the film, this is a no-brainer. The A/V is superb, and a solid collection of extras, anchored by a ridiculously awesome western historians' commentary track, are great. (One lousy BD-Live feature won't sink the whole ship.) If you haven't seen the film, or have kids that are too old for animated flicks, this is a gamble worth taking too. Highly Recommended, all the way around.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • English
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Along the Silverado Trail: A Western Historians' Commentary
  • The Making of Silverado
  • A Return to Silverado with Kevin Costner
  • Movie IQ

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