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Film / Silverado

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From top-left to bottom: Paden, Emmett, Mal, Jake, and Stella (inset)

Posse Member: Let's go, he ain't hittin' nothin'!
Sheriff Langston: You idiot, he's hit everything he's aimed at!
Posse Member: Well, they ain't out of our jurisdiction 'til they reach the flattop!
Sheriff Langston: [rising in his saddle, until his hat is shot off] Today, my jurisdiction ends here.

Silverado is a 1985 Western film that's something of a Reconstruction of the genre. Released in the theaters July of that year, it was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starred many well-known (or soon to be well-known) actors, including Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Dennehy, Rosanna Arquette, and John Cleese.

The basic plot: In 1880, four men travel together to the city of Silverado. They come across many dangers before they finally engage the "bad guys" and bring peace and equality back to the city.


This film contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: For a while the film teases that Paden will run into and ultimately kill all of the four men who robbed him (and trekked all of his property) but two of them never encounter him or appear in person.
  • Action Prologue: The film opens with Emmett killing his assailants after they infiltrate the shack he's sleeping in.
  • Actor Allusion: Scott Glenn is once again in the role of a cowboy.
  • Affably Evil: Cobb is cheerful and friendly even when he's doublecrossing and murdering people.
  • Answer Cut: When Emmett describes his brother to Sheriff Langston, the sheriff responds, "I know where that gentleman is." Cut to the town jail.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Lampshaded when corrupt town sheriff Cobb indicates to Paden that he'll harm Stella if Paden moves against him, even though Cobb acknowledges she has nothing whatsoever to do with their dispute. He does however know Paden (whom he used to work with when they were robbers) got caught while protecting a wounded dog he'd previously claimed to despise, so figures the threat will make Paden back off. It works at first, but Stella figures out what's happened and talks Paden into fighting Cobb anyway.
    • Also, this is what gets Emmett to recover from his injuries; Mal tells him McKendrick has kidnapped his nephew (see Heroic Second Wind below).
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  • Badass Boast: Mal grumbles, "Now, I don't wanna kill you, and you don't wanna be dead."
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The whole reason Mal ends up with Emmett and Paden in the first place; Emmett speaks up on Mal's behalf to Sheriff Langston after his bar fight. Later, when Langston and his posse are chasing Emmett after he's sprung Jake and Paden from prison, Mal shoots at Langston and his posse to get them to back off.
    Jake: He a friend of yours?
    Paden: He is now.
    Jake: Who is he?
    Paden: Oh, a guy who got run out of town.
    Emmett: Just like us. (Mal tips his hat in greeting to them)
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Sheriff Cobb and Ethan McKendrick.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Slick the gambler initially comes across as unassuming, cordial and an ally of sorts to the heroes before selling out to Cobb.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: McKendrick shoots Emmett's pistol out of his hands during the final fight in town. It was accidental, mind you, as McKendrick was aiming at Emmett and not his gun, but it still destroyed Emmett's pistol and forced Emmett to find another way to kill McKendrick.
  • Book-Ends: The first and last words Paden and Cobb say to each other onscreen.
  • Catchphrase: Paden has "Bad luck." Mal has "That ain't right." Jake's half Catchphrase half Running Gag "All I did was kiss a girl."
  • Chase Scene: A horseback high-speed chase between Emmett and the Big Bad during the climax.
  • Clueless Deputy: See Smart People Play Chess for an example of how this is used in Langston's town. Cobb's deputies also count in a Dumb Muscle kind of way.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Particularly Paden, Emmett, and Stella, but everyone gets in a few.
    Paden: They just jumped you out of the blue, huh?
    Emmett: I had to get up anyway.
    • Also-
    Emmett: (after finding Paden robbed, abandoned and dying of thirst in a desert and lending him his remount—a Pinto) "Where ya headed?"
    Paden:"Where's the Pinto headed?"
  • Demoted to Extra: Almost all of Rosanna Arquette's scenes were deleted in post-production thus failing to explain how she goes from Emmett to Paden in the course of the movie.
  • Determined Widow: When introduced, Hannah's a Determined Homesteader's Wife, but he's Too Dumb to Live. An early love interest for Paden, until he meets Stella in the eponymous town. She later gets ship teased with Emmett. But she's with Paden in his final (and the movie's penultimate) scene.
  • Dirty Cop: Cobb as the sheriff.
  • The Drifter: Paden
  • Duel to the Death: Paden and Cobb's final confrontation, which ends in a shoot-out. What makes it very interesting is that both realize that such a thing has become necessary, and are saddened that their once friendship has ended in this way.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Emmett is introduced sleeping inside a shack when four men ambush him. He guns them down and heads off for Silverado.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • McKendrick won't let one of his men kill a boy, even though the boy saw their faces. They opt to kidnap him instead.
    • Cobb may rule the town with an iron fist and is in cahoots with McKendrick, but he has no patience for racism in his town.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: Yep, nothing like a stampede to disrupt the bad guys while you move in for the kill.
  • Evil Counterpart: Tyree is this to Jake. Both are quick on the draw, wild, and a little unhinged. However while Jake is a playful Manchild, who's ultimately a decent person, Tyree is a violent Psycho for Hire. Adding to their conflict is that both are attracted to Phoebe, and while Jake is kind and respectful, Tyree is abusive and possessive. So of course the film sets up Jake and Tyree for a showdown at the climax.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: As a posse is chasing the leads into some hills, several warning shots come from Danny Glover's character, who is hiding somewhere out of sight. As his shots ricochet off nearby rocks and cacti, a deputy says: "Let's go, he ain't hittin' nothin'". This prompts the sheriff, played brilliantly by John Cleese, to retort: "You idiot, he's hit everything he's aimed at." His hat is immediately knocked off by the next shot.
  • Feuding Families: Emmett killed a rancher named McKendrick in the past and comes home to find McKendrick's son harassing his sister and nephew, and happy at the idea of killing Emmett.
  • Friendly Enemy: Paden and Cobb used to ride together. They're still friendly with each other even though time has put them on opposite sides. Even their final exchange of words is a simple, but sad farewell, since they both know one of them won't be getting out of it alive.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: In your standard bar fight.
  • The Gunslinger: All the main characters are gunslingers:
    • Paden is a former outlaw who "rode with" Cobb and manages to outdraw Cobb in the final battle.
    • Emmett is a seasoned gunfighter who shoots needles off cactuses
    • Mal hits everything he aims at with his rifles.
    • Jake wears a "flashy rig" of two pistols at his hip, twirls his guns theatrically and shoots two different guys at the same time, in different directions.
  • Guns Akimbo: The character of Jake (portrayed by Kevin Costner) is styled in broad strokes. Lightning draws, blind trick shots, horse riding skills and firing two guns at the same time.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Emmett can barely move after his run in with Cobb's men, but when Mal (who's also been beat up by Cobb's men, before managing to escape) tells him McKendrick's men kidnapped Emmett and Jake's nephew, that's enough to get Emmett moving again.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Slick is stabbed with his own knife by Mal.
  • Horseback Heroism: A Big Damn Heroes moment combined with a horseback Power Walk towards the Big Bad's ranch at the climax.
    • Earlier in the movie, Jake is leading a horse through town when his nephew attempts the classic Western trope of leaping into the saddle.
      Jake: Told you, practice on a horse that's not movin'.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • Mal is astonishingly accurate with his Henry rifle. Also Emmett, who picks off cactus needles at several yards.
    • Jake's trick-shot skills. After carefully lining up the angles on two mooks to either side of them, he yells, "Hey!" and the shoots them both at the same time as they spin around.
  • The Infiltration: Part of a hastily-concocted plan to retrieve a stolen chest of settlers' valuables from some bandits who had themselves posed as wagon train guides during the trip to the eponymous town. If it weren't for Mal, it would have ended... badly:
    Dawson: You bring a posse to my best hideout, and you ask me if I mind?! Mister, I don't know any of those names. You're about to die.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Emmett's "see you around" right before the climactic charge into Silverado.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: Emmett just served five years in prison for killing a man in self-defense.
  • Land in the Saddle: After failing miserably the first time he tries this, Augie finally gets it right during the daring rescue from Mckendrick's ranch-house.
  • Manchild: Jake is introduced in jail, breezily explaining to his older brother what he did wrong while climbing around his cell like a jungle gym. Augie later claims to be more mature than him, which Jake does not deny.
  • Menacing Hand Shot: During the climactic duel, the camera goes back and forth between Cobb and Paden's hands at their waists in anticipation of the draw.
  • Miss Kitty: Stella, "The 'Midnight Star' herself."
  • Nice Hat: When Paden is introduced, he is lamenting the loss of his black hat with a pretty silver band on it.
  • Noodle Incident: How Paden got out of jail after getting caught for going back for the injured dog. He only jokes, "They locked me up. The dog sprung me."
  • No One Could Survive That!:
    • When Paden is introduced, he has been left to die of exposure in the middle of the desert by a group of bandits. None of them are happy to see him.
    • Immediately prior to the climax, some mooks get between Emmett and any chance of a reload while he's practicing his sharpshooting, and trample him repeatedly with horses. Mal treats him for his injuries.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Paden confronts the bandits who stole all of his belongings and left him to die.
  • Posse: Sheriff Langston organizes a posse to chase Emmett, Paden and Jake when they escape from the Turley jail. However, he calls off the chase when he encounters resistance from Mal, leading to the immortal line: "Today my jurisdiction ends here!"
  • Politically Correct History: While Mal encounters racism from random townsfolk, all of our heroes are rather conveniently free of any and all racial bias.
  • Posthumous Character: McKendrick's father, who was killed by Emmet, escalating the feud between the families.
  • Professional Gambler:
    • Slick. "Scuse me, Sheriff, I'm a gambler, lookin' to run an honest game. Who would I talk to about that?"
    • Paden also spends his time playing cards in saloons, talks in gambling metaphors and mutters about bad luck.
  • Public Secret Message: Langston tells Emmett and Paden that Jake will be hanged at 10 o'clock the next morning. Emmett then gives his brother a "Reason You Suck" Speech about an old friend of theirs always knowing he would hang, and that "at dawn" he'll be proven right. Langston corrects him, not realizing that Emmett was telling Jake when he would be springing him.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Sheriff Langston is just trying to keep order in his town, but that puts him at odds with our heroes by enforcing the residents' racist views and holding Jake for execution.
  • Psycho for Hire: Tyree is a nasty piece of work.
  • Ramp Jump: Emmett does one on horseback towards the end of the Chase Scene, and knocks the Big Bad from his horse.
  • Rancher: The Big Bad is a Corrupt Corporate Executive version, leading to conflict between him and Mal's dad.
  • Reconstruction: The film is Lawrence Kasdan's love letter to the classic Western.
  • Retired Gunfighter: Emmett
  • Retired Outlaw: While never openly acknowledged, all four heroes are quite skilled at shooting and don't seem to be shocked by the idea of killing people, but also have no history as lawmen. The closest we get to confirmation is that Paden is said to have "ridden" with Cobb in their youth, which involved getting arrested.
  • The Seven Western Plots: This is a combination of the Outlaw and Ranch plots, as the heroes are all implied to be Retired Outlaws and end up fighting to save the honest homesteaders from a Corrupt Corporate Executive Rancher and a sheriff whom one of said heroes used to ride with.
  • The Sheriff: Langston as the (mostly) honest variety, Cobb as the Corrupt Hick variety.
  • Showdown at High Noon: Cobb and Paden meet in the center of the main street for a quickdraw contest.
  • Stock British Characters: John Cleese plays a smart, stern, erudite British sheriff.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Sheriff Langston is shown playing chess. Sitting across the board is one of his deputies, but after Langston makes a move, his spins the board around to play the other side as well. This established him as intelligent and Surrounded by Idiots.
  • Smug Snake: "Slick," played by Jeff Goldblum.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Hannah's husband. He's a rude and suspicious Jerkass, who even after Paden, Emmett, and Mal help recover his wagon train's stolen money thinks they were just after it for themselves It gets him killed when he turns his gun on them, delaying them just long enough for the last of the outlaws who stole it in the first place to shoot him dead.
  • Troperiffic: This film gleefully embraces so many Wild West Tropes its easier to list the ones that it doesn't include than it is to list the ones that it does.
  • We Have Reserves: Actually averted when a rueful Cobb says that he's running out of deputies after a few shootouts.
  • Weapon of Choice: Mal and his father are both fans of the Henry rifle.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Paden is asked repeatedly by his old riding buddies what became of the injured dog that drove him out of banditry. When Stella asks, he says simply, "She left me," jokingly making it sound like the end of a romance, and continuing to evade the question.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Tyree nearly provokes a gunfight with Jake when he (Tyree) manhandles Phoebe.
  • The Wild West: A reconstruction of classic frontier America during the Wild West era.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Mal gives a non-verbal one when one of the toughs trying to throw him out of the bar breaks the bottle of whiskey that he had just bought.
  • Young Gun: Jake is a young, brash and cocky Manchild but backs it up with all the gunfighting and horseriding stunts of a western action hero.


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