Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio
March 8, 2019 (United States)
A young boy on the run after killing his abusive father witnesses Sheriff Pat Garrett shoot Billy the Kid.
I have a love/hate relationship with The Kid. It has a good story but at the beginning of the film it is strongly implied the narrative is going to be focused on Rio Cutler (Jake Schur) who is the child that killed his father but there is a lot more emphasis during the film on Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) than there is on the individual who you think is the kid referenced in the title of the movie. In other words, this is a work of historical fiction using Rio to view events of Billy the Kid.
At the beginning Rio’s father is beating his mother and it is clear the intent is to kill her. He manages to kill the father but not before his mother is murdered and so his sister Sara (Leila George) and he takeoff barely ahead of his crazy uncle Grant (Chris Pratt). You would think these three people will be the core of the story are about to watch. You would think but you would be wrong.
And then the narrative abruptly changes after they take shelter in an abandoned shack and wake up to find Billy the Kid and his gang in there with them. The story then decides to take a turn with Rio just being an observer of the capture of Billy the Kid and the events that followed. The central characters of the film then become Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, who have been the subject of numerous other films, with Rio Cutler who was front and center at the beginning at times feeling as if he has been forgotten in the movie in which he was implied to be central.
Dane DeHaan as Billy the Kid is great in the role. DeHaan has been hit or miss from what I have seen in his performances. Here he is very hit. He is in my opinion one of the better film interpretations of the character in this role. The character was much more complex than in some other depictions I have seen. He is definitely crazy but there were more facets where he could be thoughtful and loyal and intelligent.
Rio is played by newcomer Jake Schur. He is not too bad, and I think the film would have worked just as well if they kept the narrative on him. Schur looked as if he could have carried a narrative if director Vincent D’Onofrio had focused on his character. Rio is not some abruptly mature and capable child. He is a child throughout trying to do an adult thing as best as he can and unfortunately that is not very well. In that regard I would call his portrayal realistic.
As said earlier this is a work of historical fiction. In such a script you can play with the real-life characters. And they do that with Billy the Kid. They show the type of personality he was said to have had with his interactions with Rio. However with Pat Garrett they do not seem to do too much here. Ethan Hawke is a good actor, and he does well enough with what he has got but Pat Garrett just, well, is. He exists as a lawman and nothing more.
The moments with the sister are perhaps the most brutal. They are just disturbing as you see her at the brothel. She is abused and spiritually broken. It is a bit rough to watch.
Westerns just do not get the love and attention in look that they once did. Too often they are cheaply done films with nothing occurring or sitting really in the background. That is not the case here. It is a lived in the world. There was some effort put into this.
And the story is well directed. I cannot fault D’Onofrio there. But I go back to the shifting focus of the narrative. And that is where the movie falls apart. The dialogue is good. The performances are good, but we get another in a long line of films using Billy the Kid. What could have been done here is a strong coming of age tail set in the West about a kid that has to step up and be an adult but instead he became a passive observer in fictitious events surrounding a real life individual. What we get instead is fanfiction about Billy the Kid.
The Kid is not a bad movie, but it has some real issues. Still though it is not too bad of a movie. I am going to give this a very tentative watch it!