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Review: The Kid

The Kid
6 10

the kid ethan hawke chris pratt bannerPLOT: After killing their abusive father, a brother (Jake Schur) and sister (Leila George) go on the run from their crazed uncle (Chris Pratt), falling in with Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) and Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) along the way.

REVIEW: “It doesn’t matter what’s true. What matters is the story they tell when you’re gone.” So says Ethan Hawke’s Pat Garrett before a climactic, Wild West showdown in Vincent D’Onofrio’s sophomore feature as a director, THE KID, a somewhat revisionist western that tries to turn an old genre cliché on its head – that Billy the Kid was the noble anti-hero killed by his greedy, spineless former friend, Pat Garrett. Indeed, the familiar beats of their legend play out, but D’Onofrio ’s film attempts to portray Garrett in a much more favorable light than usual, making the case that for all we know the man was a paragon of virtue trying his best to dish out justice in a lawless frontier.

It’s strange Garrett’s been treated so callously by Hollywood for years, with Sam Peckinpah’s PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID depicting him as especially loathsome. By contrast, Billy’s always been portrayed as a hellion with a noble streak. Here, Billy’s still portrayed sympathetically, with Dane DeHaan well cast despite being a good ten years too old to play him as a guy that could still believably be called “Billy The Kid”.

Yet, despite a title that might suggest we’re watching a Billy the Kid biopic, he’s not actually the titular character. Instead, THE KID is Jake Schur’s Rio, a sweet-natured teen forced to kill his dad to protect his mom and sister, and too gentle to survive his flight from his crazed uncle (Chris Pratt in a rare indie role and cast against type) and needing help. He tries to find that help with DeHaan’s Billy, although it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more upstanding Garrett is likely the better bet.

the kid ethan hawke chris pratt dane dehaanD’Onofrio’s made an admirably low-key western. Always a tough genre to make commercial, he’s cast several of his former co-stars in juicy parts, with much being made of Pratt playing against type as the film’s bearded baddie. It’s stunt casting, but Pratt seems to relish shaking things up a bit, although I’m not sure this kind of part suits him. His availability limits his role, with him really only dominating the last twenty minutes or so. One wonders if the film might have played better with a less famous actor in the part who could have gotten more screen time to build up as a credible threat to Hawke.

For his part though, Hawke, who’s made a few westerns now, is excellent as the heroic Garrett. He really does bring to mind some of the classic, lower-key western heroes of the forties/fifties/sixties, coming off very much in the mold of a James Stewart or Henry Fonda. If he had been around during this era I’m sure directors like Anthony Mann or John Ford would have used him a lot. Of contemporary actors, he’s always seemed the most comfortable playing a cowboy.

While a shade too old, DeHaan is also good as the complex Billy, balancing his more sympathetic moments with bits showing there’s something perhaps broken inside him that’s made him too wild to allow to roam the west unchecked. His anti-hero attempts to eschew legend for something that might have been a little closer to reality, and his performance is very effective.

While I’d wager THE KID is too low-key to really capitalize on the marquee cast in a financial way, everyone involved does good work. D’Onofrio’s made a very serviceable western despite a couple of slow bits (when Hawke or DeHaan are off screen the movie doesn’t work nearly as well). If you’re a fan of the genre, THE KID is well worth a VOD rental.

Source: JoBlo.com

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