Review by James Lindorf
It has been nearly ten years since esteemed actor Vincent D’Onofrio has been on the other side of the camera. His first outing Don’t Go in the Woods was a horror film that came out in early 2010. He decided to switch genres this time and has returned with a western inspired by the life of Billy The Kid. Lionsgate will bring The Kid to theaters on March 8th, 2019, with a 99-minute runtime and an R rating for Violence and language.
First-time actor Jake Schur stars as Rio, he’s nearly 15 years old and on the run across the American Southwest with his older sister, Sara (Leila George). After killing their abusive father, the pair must flee the clutches of their sadistic uncle (Chris Pratt). On their way to Sante Fe, they meet up with infamous outlaw Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and his gang. Billy is on the run as well, hot on his heels is Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke), his posse, and the threat of the gallows. Can the two kids help each other outrun their pursuers and achieve their version of freedom?
The titular kid can be viewed as both Rio, the actual child, and Billy the Kid. While Rio is the central character, the movie lives in its moments where Dane Dehaan is on screen. If Dehaan is tired of the Leonardo DiCaprio comparisons, he better be prepared for a rough time ahead. He displays plenty of the trademark Leo charisma and looks like he belongs somewhere on the evolutionary chart between DiCaprio’s characters in The Quick and the Dead and The Revenant.
Andrew Lanham wrote the screenplay based on a story he and D’Onofrio came up with. The story at its core is about Rio and which type of man he is going to become, the outlaw or the upstanding citizen. The decision is always up in the air as he admires both Sherriff Pat who vows to uphold the societal standard of justice and Billy who has his own code but will always put himself first. Choosing to center the story on Rio was their first and most significant mistake. During filming, they should have rewritten the script to make Billy the main character. It wouldn’t have taken much as he has almost as much screen time as Rio and he is 10x as interesting.
Schur is fine, especially for a first-timer, but he is overshadowed by nearly everyone in the film. Making him another character to be rescued would have removed his agency and made him less interesting, but it would have been to the betterment of the movie. Ethan Hawke has some very good moments, Chris Pratt is nearly unrecognizable as the evil uncle, and Dehann steals every scene.
D’Onofrio is improving as a director. The movie is well shot, especially the gunfight scenes. They are not overly complicated action moments like the recent The Magnificent Seven remake but instead feel true to the period. With his background as an actor, he is able to get good performances from the entire cast. The Areas that he still needs to work on include story development and editing. The story is a bit thin and focused on the wrong character while the pacing of the film is a bit jerky at times, making it hard to understand how much time has passed. I think it is clear The Kid won’t be D’Onofrio’s last movie or his best, but it has many good elements and may be worth watching just for Dehaan’s performance.