Taking up where the original Young Guns left off, this sequel recalls the last two years in the life of William Bonney - that's Billy the Kid, shot dead at 21 in 1881 by his former friend and fellow cattle rustler Pat Garrett, and subject of 47 previous movies. What is purportedly new and different with this particular version is the historical accuracy on show and, paradoxically, the possibility of a happy ending - perhaps Billy didn't die after all - but what Young Guns II really has going for it is the central performance of Emilio Estevez, so cunning, witty, childish, irresponsible and credible a left-handed gun that he manages to transcend the movie's several shortcomings.
Principal of these is a plot which unfolds unevenly and - to anyone not steeped in posses, pioneer power struggles and life on the trail - in a most perplexing fashion. For all its funny lines and exciting set-pieces, this serves only to diminish the predicament in which our hero finds himself. It lessens too our interest in the adversity of his reformed Regulators, of whom Sutherland and Phillips ride again, the former's character Doc completely thrown away, the latter's wooden Indian never very interesting in the first place.
Newboy Christian Slater is given little room to shine, and, as Garrett, Petersen has no opportunity to build the turncoat character of Billy's nemesis - though the contrast between the dramatic beauty of the New Mexico landscape and the grubbiness of those who ride it is well-caught throughout. An affectionate and entertaining tribute to the Western - but, Estevez aside, Young Guns II doesn't exactly add much to the old genre.