Film Review – The Kid
As a longtime fan of Vincent D’Onofrio’s work in front of the camera, The Kid presented an opportunity to see what he is capable behind it. As the director, D’Onofrio hopefully would take his immense knowledge of being in the film industry and be able to procure an excellent film. It’s not exactly what happens with The Kid.
The Kid takes on the legend of Billy the Kid, a famous Western outlaw. The story is not completely rooted in Billy’s (Dane DeHaan) story. The film starts by following Sara (Leila George) and her brother Rio (Jake Schur) as they escape the wrath of their uncle Grant (Chris Pratt). Their mother is killed following a domestic dispute between her and Sara and Rio’s father. In Rio’s struggle to help his mother, he kills his father, incurring the wrath of Grant for killing his brother. Rio and Sarah run from home, and their uncle determined to make it to Santa Fe, New Mexico where they have family. At a pit stop, they awaken in an abandoned cabin to several men joining them in some respite. One of them is Billy the Kid. It is not long until the law catches up with Billy and they are all cornered by Sheriff Pat (Ethan Hawke) and his men, most notable of them being Jim (Ben Dickey), a gentle giant of sorts. After surrendering, Sara and Rio are along for the ride as Billy and his gang are transported for hanging.
The title of the film is open to interpretation, and this becomes more evident as it progresses. Rio is infatuated with Billy as his legend quickly spread through the West. Can you imagine running into someone like that in your travels, let alone your escape from your angry and vengeful uncle? Billy obviously knows about his legend and probably revels in it a bit. The relationship follows what one would expect if a young kid (14 years old) met their favorite celebrity. Rio can be bent to help Billy out, even if Rio knows its wrong. Billy also endears himself to Rio and becomes protective of him. Even without Billy present, Rio seems to be emboldened by Billy, so much so he does things that the Rio at the film’s beginning would never do.
It is evident just looking at the cast list that Vincent D’Onofrio has recruited his friends and family to take part in his film. His co-stars from The Magnificent Seven, Ethan Hawke, and Chris Pratt are the most obvious. His daughter Leila George plays Sara and one of the film’s producers, Jordan Schur, has his son, Jake, playing Rio. It is not evident what kind of budget this film had (although it is most certainly not very high), so leveraging existing relationships to make the film he wanted is evident. What comes from this casting are some questionable scenes where acting was not on par with other performances in the film. Had some other actors been cast, the film could have come off stronger but instead felt stunted and off in several scenes. The film did one thing right, casting Chris Pratt as a villain, something not seen from this actor who is known for comedy and big budget films. Both his build, hat, dirt and facial hair thoroughly disguised his well-known face enough to give the air of someone not with which to be messed.
The script by Andrew Lanham (The Glass Castle, The Shack) relies on historical events as well as bringing in his own fiction to the story. The story meanders around, jumping from setting to setting with not much explanation. It seems Billy’s gang was free to be hanged wherever but Billy was to be hanged in Lincoln. Time and circumstances blended and it wasn’t always evident why they stopped at this town or that. Maybe it was my own fault as I had lost interest in the film, which is never a good sign.
Based on the script, the setting, and whatever the budget was, director Vincent D’Onofrio tried his best to construct a compelling western with an iconic figure at its center. It seemed like a no-brainer that this film could be fantastic with the acting talent in its cast. Unfortunately, not all of the actors matched each other with their talent, and this created a disconnect where some scenes were good, and others fell apart. Had this film had a larger budget and had a couple of the parts recast, the film would have fared better. Fans of westerns will no doubt want to see The Kid, and I don’t think they will be disappointed because the costumes and production design are top notch. I really wanted this film to be great, and I will continue to support D’Onofrio. I just hope he is given the circumstances to create the best film possible.