For many of us, when we think of Billy The Kid we picture Emilio Estevez, leading a sizeable chunk of the Brat Pack, in the Young Guns films. But now available for home viewing and directed by Vincent D’Onofrio is The Kid; a coming of age Western that is set around the final few days of the notorious outlaw, played by Dane Dehaan, as he is captured by his former friend Sheriff Pat Garret (Ethan Hawke).
Instead of focusing on Billy, the titular kid in this film is the young Rio Cutler, played by Jake Schur in his debut film appearance, who is on the run with his sister Sara (Leila George) after he killed their abusive father (Tait Fletcher). Hot on their heels is their Uncle Grant, played by Chris Pratt in his very first role as a villain, who is determined to make the children pay for murdering his brother. The two end up being discovered by Billy and his Gang before they are arrested by Pat Garret.
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Despite being a little bit slow with its pacing and action, The Kid is a good western, made better by those starring in it. Jake Schur carries the film well as the young Rio, and is very believable as he struggles with how to handle the very adult situation he finds himself in. Like the proverbial devil and angel on Rio’s shoulders, he has both Billy the Kid and Garret trying to counsel him on what to do. As a coming of age story set in the Wild West, this film is as dark as it comes, but at no point do you doubt the experiences that Rio has been through, as Jake shows a maturity that some young actors would not be able to deliver on.
Dehaan is excellent as Billy Bonney, matching all the charisma found in Estevez’s performance and revelling in his outlaw superstardom, but he also manages to demonstrate the fact that Billy the Kid was not a hero, but merely a self-serving outlaw only really worried about self-preservation. Rio’s interactions with Billy go from a fan meeting their favourite celebrity right through to the disappointment when the same fan discovers that their hero is a not what they thought.
Hawke as Garret brings a sense of weariness to the former outlaw turned Sheriff, and although he has no apparent regrets in bringing Bonney and his former colleagues to justice he is clearly trying to come to terms with his own past. In trying to counsel the young Rio from taking a darker path with his life he clearly hopes for some sort of redemption.
A definite mention needs to be made of Chris Pratt’s performance, though initially he was unconvinced that he could play the part of a villain. Having been cast as either the loveable comic relief, such as Andy in Parks and Recreaction, the action hero in the Jurassic World films or a combination of the two as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, he expressed his concerns in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. However, director Vincent D’Onofrio was confident in Pratt’s ability and shared his experiences of playing Kingpin in the Daredevil TV show. Pratt need not have worried though, as he is outstanding as the evil Uncle. With a big beard that reminds you of Back to the Future III’s Buford ‘Mad Dog’ Tannen, there is no comedy to be found in Grant Cutler. He draws the line at raping his own niece but he has no problems with ordering other members of his gang to do so. Overall he is not in the film very much, but his part in the climactic final scene is unforgettable. Hopefully, this will pave the way for more villainous performances in Pratt’s future filmography.
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In addition to the film, the home release also comes with a Making Of special feature. It only has a short running time of around ten minutes but does provide a little bit of insight into how D’Onofrio and his crew went about making the film, and has snippet interviews with the main cast.
The Kid is well worth a watch if you did not catch it at the cinema, and again shows just how far indie cinema has come. It is a shame that the slowness of the plot lets it down, but the superb cast allows you to get fully caught up in the events.