Combustible Celluloid
With: Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Chris Pratt, Jake Schur, Leila George, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, Tait Fletcher, Keith Jardine, Jenny Gabrielle
Written by: Andrew Lanham
Directed by: Vincent D'Onofrio
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 100
Date: 03/08/2019

The Kid (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Billy Club

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The first major Billy the Kid movie since Young Guns II, this rough, sturdy Western is unflinchingly brutal, but also contains thoughtful ruminations on the nature of violence and its repercussions.

In The Kid, fourteen year-old Rio (Jake Schur) can no longer stand by while his father beats his mother, so he intervenes and kills him, unfortunately too late to save his mother. So he and his older sister Sara (Leila George) hit the trails, pursued by their vicious uncle Grant (Chris Pratt). While hiding, they unexpectedly encounter a ragged, road-weary Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and his gang.

Rio is in awe of the outlaw celebrity, and when Billy hears their story and promises to help them, Rio counts on him keeping his word. But Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) is hot on Billy's trail, and manages to catch him, carting the whole bunch to Santa Fe, where Rio and Sara hope to find help from a friend of their mother's. But Grant finds the brother and sister, takes Sara away to become his slave, and threatens to kill Rio if he follows. More than ever, Rio needs Billy's help, but can Billy actually keep his promise?

Directed by Vincent D'Onofrio — who also appears as a sheriff in one scene — The Kid explores violence in a way similar to Clint Eastwood's great Unforgiven, although more primitive. It coaxes viewers into seeing Billy as a kind of hero, while casting the lawman Garrett as unpleasant and relentless. Billy is frequently high-spirited, but in a low moment, he confesses his true misery, and the realization that "no good moment I ever had weren't a lie." Garrett gets his own moment of confession, but he's more steadfast, claiming that "a man's wrongs matter, but there's nothing as important as what he does next."

Despite the star power of legends Billy and Garrett, Rio is actually the movie's main character, and young Schur — in his movie debut — holds his own with the veteran actors. DeHaan is the perfect Billy, cocky and lean, with yellow teeth from too much time in hiding, and Hawke is positively frightening as the intense, grim Garrett (he shoots a horse in his first scene).

D'Onofrio, who is better known as an actor, seems to prefer concentrating on moments of character rather than visuals, but his grimy Western landscapes are perfectly suited to the story; most shots feel constricting, rather than the usual open ranges of other Westerns. The Kid may not be pretty, but it's truthful and keenly affecting.

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