Vincent D’Onofrio’s “The Kid” is a fresh venture across some well-traveled cinematic territory. Over the years we’ve seen the legend of Billy the Kid explored through numerous movies and television shows. D’Onofrio doesn’t so much retell William H. Bonney’s story as he does intersect with it.
“The Kid” puts its main focus on a young boy named Rio (Jake Schur). In the opening scene we see him and his older sister Sara (Leila George) fleeing their home. Rio has shot and killed his abusive father and his equally violent uncle (a rather menacing Chris Pratt) wants revenge for his brother’s death.
The siblings cross paths with the notorious Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) who sees shades of himself in Rio and promises to keep the two safe. But in no time the dogged Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) sweeps in and takes them all into custody. Pat and his men intend to get Billy to Lincoln, New Mexico to pay for his crimes. The opportunistic Billy keeps his eyes open for any chance to escape.
While their game of cat-and-mouse plays out, the film’s centerpiece (Rio) is forced to decide what kind of man he’s going to be. So amid a slew of western violence and oneupmanship, an unexpected coming-of-age story springs up. Does Rio follow the path of the charismatic outlaw or the principled lawman?
The story was conceived by D’Onofrio and screenwriter Andrew Lanham. The bulk of it is told through Rio’s eyes as his innocence is steadily being chiseled away. The two influences in front of him couldn’t be more different and watching him wrestle with both adds an interesting and unexpected twist. It keeps the whole thing from being yet another telling of Billy the Kid’s story.
But I don’t want to shortchange the Billy vs. Pat angle. It will certainly be familiar for many and D’Onofrio doesn’t bring much new too it. But it’s still fun to watch mainly due to the performances given by DeHaan and Hawke. I’ve long struggled to fully embrace DeHaan as an actor but this is definitely a step in the right direction. He has always had a hard-to-define screen presence and it actually works really well here. Hawke on the other hand gives another rock solid showing, continuing a streak of great performances that have become his norm.
D’Onofrio frames all of this through a nicely realized western backdrop. He shows off a good eye for setting and a nice sense of the genre he’s working in. His pacing is a bit uneven at times and many won’t be able to shake the feelings that they’ve seen some of this before. But “The Kid” offers enough of a mixture of fresh and familiar to not only warrant its existence, but to provide an unorthodox and entertaining Old West experience.
VERDICT – 4 STARS
This review had me at “a menacing Chris Pratt.” Now THAT will be interesting to watch (not sure how much screen time he gets but sounds like he’s in a little bit of a different mode here). Theatrical viewing or at home?
Saw it at home. Unfortunately it never hit a theater anywhere near me. Pratt is quite good and he is definitely in a much different mode than we’re used to. He doesn’t have a ton of screen time but he’s very effective each time he shows up.
I had thoughts about seeing it as I like westerns and the story of Billy the Kid but how would you compare it to other films about Billy the Kid such as Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid?
I think this is a pretty different take mainly because it isn’t what you would call a comprehension Billy the Kid story. It’s told from the perspective of a young boy. His story is the centerpiece. And as I wrote, the movie doesn’t tell Billy’s story as much as it intersects with it.
Ultimately if you like westerns I think you should give this a look.
I’ll give it a shot.
👍 Interested to read your thoughts.
Wow.. 4 stars.. saw this one quite some time ago and wasn’t nearly as impressed as you. I liked DeHaan and that was about it .. 🙂
If it was a stand-alone Billy the Kid story I probably wouldn’t have been as high on it. But at its core this is a coming-of-age story about a boy whose innocence has been stripped away. The way they meld that with a familiar wild west tale kind of fascinated me.
They always get the age ranges so wrong on these movies.. Billy the Kid..was a kid when he died..22..yet they always put an older actor in which at least DeHaan looks a bit younger than his real age, but still older than 22, and the whole stuff with this kids sister and all that was just..pretty awful and not well told. ah well.. we all see things differently. 🙂
While I actually liked the fictional brother and sister angle, you’re right about the age stuff. The movies have always been a bit off.
It is. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it.
If I saw it on TV I’d give it a chance.
Good! I had to watch it at home. It got a pretty limited theater release and never hit theaters in my area.
This sounds like an interesting movie, thanks! It’s interesting to explore well-known stories from a different angle!
I think so too. If this film didn’t do that it would definitely drop a point or so. But that fresh angle really worked for me.
Hmmmm, I don’t like Pratt at all, but this concept sounds very very interesting. One to add to the list for sure!
There is no trace of the usual Pratt at all. It’s a completely different performance. He really surprised me.
sounds very intriguing. And I usually agree with your opinions too