The following is a short review of The Kid — Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio.
Maybe it’s an unfair and impolite thought, but whenever an actor-turned-director gets an A-list cast for his next feature, I start to worry that the star-studded cast only agreed to appear in the film as a favor to a good friend who is trying their hand at a new thing that he or she is relatively inexperienced at. The Kid, a new somewhat-biographical western, is Vincent D’Onofrio’s second feature film as a director. His sophomore effort as a director features a cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, and Dane DeHaan. I may never learn if they joined this film as a favor or not, but I can say that I enjoyed this film quite a bit.
D’Onofrio’s The Kid takes place in the Old West of the late 1800s, and the film follows the Cutler siblings, Rio (played by Jake Schur) and Sara (played by Leila George), after they have witnessed their drunken father beat their mother to death. Rio shot and killed his father to defend his mother, and now his uncle Grant and his gang of bandits are hunting them so that they may have their revenge. On the run, the Cutler siblings eventually meet up with the infamous bandit Billy the Kid (played by Dane DeHaan) and Sheriff Pat Garrett (played by Ethan Hawke), who agrees to escort them into town while he takes Billy to be tried and hanged.
I really liked The Kid, but I have mixed feelings about a lot about the film. I thought the film’s dialogue was unconvincing in moments. The dialogue of Pratt’s character, obviously through no fault of Pratt’s, is particularly forthright, unsubtle, and incompetent. However, I greatly enjoyed seeing Pratt play a foul, dirty, unsophisticated villain for a change. He actually really works in this role, and I would love to see him play more ‘bad guy’ roles going forward. Ethan Hawke gives a compassionate but stern performance as the law-abiding Pat Garrett who seemed like more of a good guy than I expected him to be in this film.
Though I am no expert on Billy the Kid or the Wild West, I thought that Dane DeHaan was a particularly good choice to play the character. He is just the right amount of mischievous and charming for the infamous outlaw. I, however, don’t have much to say about the young actor playing Rio Cutler, the protagonist of the film. Jake Schur’s character is a bit of a nonentity, and the actor isn’t asked to do anything particularly difficult. Somewhat frustratingly, the female characters don’t have much to say or do either, even though the film is about the aftermath of domestic violence.
I was very intrigued and entertained by the film throughout it, but I was disappointed by the rhythm, pace, and length of the film. I never found it boring, and I never thought the film dragged. In actuality, I felt that the film was lacking scenes that would allow for the film to breathe and for sudden changes in the narrative to feel significant. The film essentially cuts corners to deliver an easily digestible package with a relatively short runtime of 100 minutes.
I can’t escape the fact that it feels rushed and incomplete. Something is missing in The Kid, D’Onofrio’s first western as a director. But, ultimately, I dug enough of what he brought to the film to be able to recommend the film to fans of the genre as a well-shot and entertaining Old West tale of domestic violence, lawlessness, and revenge. It isn’t original, but it is much more entertaining than it has any right to be. That may be because of the impressive cast D’Onofrio assembled. We may never know if they joined the film as a favor or not, but I will say that I, in any case, enjoyed the film quite a bit precisely because of the stars that somehow both overwhelm and buoy the film up.
6.7 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.