The Kid is a western based on the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid and his capture by Pat Garrett. The film is the directorial debut of esteemed veteran actor Vincent D'Onofrio. He's unfortunately off to a rough start behind the camera. A weak script, patchy editing, and uneven performances take the gunpowder out of the bullets. What should be a gritty coming of age tale ends up boring and forgettable.
Newcomer Jake Schur stars as Rio. He's a teenager on the run with his older sister, Sara (Leila George); trying to escape the clutches of their vicious uncle (Chris Pratt). The pair are accidentally found by the infamous Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and his gang. Who are also on the lam from Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) and his posse. Rio admires the loquacious outlaw and starts to befriend him, despite Sara's objections. He keenly observes the strange rapport between Billy and the stern lawman. When his uncle finally catches up to them, he's forced to choose between mentors to save his sister.
The Kid has a disjointed pace that hobbles the flow of the story. The characters leap from scene to scene with little or no exposition in between. It's quite puzzling and makes no sense at all. Rio and his sister are together in the beginning. Then Billy and his gang literally appear out of the blue. This happens repeatedly throughout the film. I can't figure out if it's the script by Andrew Latham, inexperience in the editing bay with Vincent D'Onofrio, or a combination of both. Whatever the reason, it's a huge flaw that sinks the film from the start.
The central arc of the story is Rio's perceived connection with Billy the Kid, then later to Pat Garrett. We're supposed to buy that Rio and Billy are kindred spirits. Both are young men on the run from a crime. That makes sense, but nothing else does. In fact, Pat Garrett in the film is a beacon of honesty and good. Rio, who's character has been abused by bad men, witnesses the duplicity of Billy and the virtue of Pat Garrett. It's completely illogical for him to distrust the sheriff. This failure of reasoning wipes out the premise.
Dane DeHaan and Ethan Hawke should have been better foils in this story. There was an opportunity to really draw the line between the fearless outlaw and stalwart lawman. This is the great dichotomy of the western genre. The Kid skirts the conflict, never digging deep into the characters fascination with each other. I watched this film waiting for some kind of showdown. It doesn't happen and that's a huge letdown.
Every problem with The Kid could have been rectified by some wicked gunslinging. The shootouts are middling at best. A great western has to have an epic gunfight or duel. Unforgiven, Tombstone, Open Range, they build to exciting, bullet riddled climaxes. It's another head-scratcher that Vincent D'Onofrio, who's played great villains in awesome action films, doesn't deliver ass-kicking gunplay in his western.
The Kid is a disappointment. It's problematic on multiple fronts. There wasn't anything that grabbed me. A western with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett needed to be much more engaging. Vincent D'Onofrio is a great actor, but doesn't transition well in his first feature film. I sincerely hope the second time's a charm. The Kid is distributed by Lionsgate.