The title of The Kid refers both to the real-life Billy the Kid and to the movie’s fictional 14-year-old protagonist, Rio (newcomer Jake Schur), who kills his own abusive father in the early 1880s, then goes on the run with his older sister, pursued by their nasty Uncle Grant (Chris Pratt, relishing the chance to break bad). The fugitives soon fortuitously find themselves in the middle of a shootout between Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). As the movie unfolds — with plenty of gunfights, a jailbreak and a hanging — Rio learns vital life lessons both from Billy, a fearless and amoral force of nature, and from the lawman’s more complex moral judgments.
Directed by actor Vincent D’Onofrio (who gives himself a small cameo), The Kid is a good-looking film that unspools at a measured pace. The ambitious screenplay is full of mini-monologues about fate and morality, and for once DeHaan’s tendency to chew the scenery is put to good use, while Hawke continues in the vein of First Reformed, portraying another determined self-doubter. The Kid isn’t quite as weighty as some of its dialogue or quite as exciting as the best neo-Westerns, but it finds its own middle meta-ground.
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