What It’s About: In New Mexico, during the Wild West era of cowboys and Indians, English ranch owner John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), a relative newcomer, takes in wayward young men and puts them to work on his land. His latest charity case is an orphan vagabond going by the name William H. Bonney (Emilio Estevez), soon to acquire the epithet “the Kid”. A rival of Tunstall’s, Irishman Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance) is upset that Tunstall is infringing on his virtual monopoly of the territory. Confrontations between groups loyal to each camp begin to escalate, until Tunstall himself is killed by Murphy’s men, and the “young guns” set out to avenge him.
At first, they are able to pursue justice lawfully, as duly appointed deputies. There is tension within the group, however, over whether just arresting the murderers will do any good. As the violence escalates, Billy soon finds himself the leader of this gang. Now operating as vigilantes, the so-called Regulators face gunfight after gunfight moving ever closer to a final, grand showdown with the forces arrayed against them.
Why Watch It Today?: On this day in 1878, the historical John Tunstall was killed, triggering the so-called Lincoln County War upon which the movie is roughly based. Young Guns is one of those movies I will addictively watch when I happen across it on cable, though I think I prefer the second one. It’s a fun mix of western combined with the twenty something boy “band” vibe that the main actors are known for.