Starring Jake Schur, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Leila George, Ben Dickey
As westerns go, “The Kid” has little to offer in the way of original content. You don’t have to look very far to find stellar examples of the genre that once ruled Hollywood. Scott Cooper’s 2017 epic “Hostiles” raised the bar for future westerns. Not only is it a lackluster western, ”The Kid” isn’t even the best western starring Ethan Hawke. The Oscar-nominated Hawke gave the audience a wild ride in “In A Valley of Violence (2016).” Hawke and Ben Dickey who worked together on “Blaze” reunite on this western that feels a bit too Saturday morning for my taste. If it weren’t for the curse words and violence in the first few minutes of the film you might think this was a family movie. Thankfully it’s not, but actor/director Vincent D’Onofrio trades horror for the West in this, his second time behind the camera. “The Kid” follows an unusual narrative structure, lollygagging from one setting to another, and taking far too long to make its point.
14-year-old Rio (Schur) and his older sister Sara (George) flee their childhood home following the death of their abusive father. Rio stepped up and became a man that day, and with no immediate family left, the two siblings head off for New Mexico in hopes of escaping more abuse from their uncle (Pratt), who is just as despicable as their father was. At one of their hiding places along the nerve-racking journey, they cross paths with outlaw Billy the Kid (DeHaan), who shelters the runaways until he himself is captured by Sheriff Pat Garrett (Hawke). Rio, a fan of Billy, gets caught up in legend and lore, while Sara fears their new escort spells nothing but trouble.
"The Kid" follows an unusual narrative structure, lollygagging from one setting to another, and taking far too long to make its point.
While the narrative point of view changes periodically throughout the story, it’s most often seen through the eyes of Rio. However, at some point, the story shifts awkwardly to Garrett’s point of view. It’s as if Director D’Onofrio realizes in mid-stream that either Rio isn’t that interesting or Schur’s performance just isn’t cutting it. “The Kid” attempts to tell too many stories at once; Billy the Kid’s final days, the honor of a sheriff, and the evolution of a boy to a man. Schur isn’t the only one who comes up short. DeHaan (“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets“) can’t quite crack the complexity of the multifaceted Billy the Kid, especially while sharing the screen time with two other lead characters. DeHaan has been criticized by some as a second-rate Leonard DiCaprio, an argument supported here with this performance that’s second-rate to DiCaprio’s “The Quick and the Dead.”
One of the film’s highlights is when Sheriff Pat Garrett’s great speech about “a man’s wrongs.” Hawke appears more settled into his role than anyone else, and the film should have been from his perspective all along. Better editing could have easily corrected this issue in post-production. Almost unrecognizable, Chris Pratt is thrown in here as the bad guy, who is bad only because the story needs a villain. The script is juggling so many different lead performances, there isn’t time to give the heavily bearded Pratt real purpose or background. This is more of a checkbox western that’s neither epic in scope nor memorable in substance. The film would benefit from the structure, characters and the ultimate takeaway being pared way down.
A bloated western by an unsteady director that never finds a unique trail to originality.