Starring: Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Jake Schur, Dane DeHaan
Director: Vincent D’Onofrio
Mood: If you want a shockingly fresh story around a familiar Western character that gives you all the feels and also lets you get really mad at Chris Pratt.
“It doesn’t matter what’s true. It matters the story they tell when you’re gone.”Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke)
The Kid came out this year, and somehow I’d never heard of it prior to stumbling across the title in a library database. HOW?! How are new Westerns escaping my attention?
Oh right, because I’m so goddamn busy with work that I never leave home except to ride my horse.
This movie had me excited from the get-go for many reasons:
- The fact that they’re still making Westerns
- That they got such big names in the cast
- It’s about Billy the Kid
If you’ve read my other reviews, it’ll be no surprise that my fascination with Henry McCarty aka William H Bonney aka Billy the Kid, started with Young Guns – which is by no means an accurate retelling. Like American Outlaws, it was 1988’s wisecracking Western starring a bunch of sexy young things.
The Kid is the total opposite. It’s dark, and at times deeply disturbing. (Those times are basically every time Chris Pratt is on the screen.) It’s gritty and sad, but it also packs a positive message.
I’m honestly still a bit shocked at how smart this movie is. Every time I watch it, something else delights and impresses me.
The Kid begins with an enraged man beating the crap out of his wife, while their two young kids, Rio Cutler (Jake Schur) and his older sister Sara (Leila George) cower in fear. You can tell this is a regular occurrence. Rio intervenes and shoots his dad, but the damage is done and his mother dies from her wounds.
Yeah, I told you it was dark.
Their uncle Grant (Chris Pratt) comes bursting into the house, and flies into his own rage at the death of his brother. He starts beating on the kids with the intent to kill them and avenge his ‘poor’ brother, but the kids escape into the night.
They manage to steal a horse and ride toward Santa Fe, where Sara says their mother had a friend who can help them. They pause for rest in an abandoned barn, and wake up to find themselves in the company of Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and his posse.
Billy is being hunted by his former bro Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke), who arrives at that same moment for a showdown with his prey.
This is where The Kid’s title takes on two separate but equal meanings – it’s the story of the final hurrahs of Billy the Kid, and of a kid who idolizes Billy but has to find his own strength in the face of brutal life lessons.
The acting in The Kid is SO GOOD. Hawke’s Pat Garrett is a fantastic blend of a major buzzkill deserving of rebellion (when you’re rooting for Billy), and a genuinely good guy (when you desperately want things to work out for Rio). Ethan Hawke has quietly become an ideal modern Western hero – check The Magnificent Seven and In a Valley of Violence.
Plus, he has a great moustache.
DeHaan gives a performance as Billy the Kid that’s reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s got charm and swagger, but also a deep sadness and a selfishness that takes the shine off of him right quick.
Chris Pratt… I don’t even want to talk about him, but that’s because he did such a disgustingly good job as the evil uncle. It was a whole new Pratt – he acted the f*ck out of his first bad guy role. It gave me a huge ‘no’ feeling, like watching John Lithgow go full creepy serial killer in Dexter.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the actual kid in The Kid, Jake Schur. THIS WAS HIS FIRST MOVIE, PEOPLE. Holy shit. He was strong when he needed to be, vulnerable when the scene called for it, and held his own with some of Hollywood’s best like he’s been doing this for years.
Over the course of the film you witness a scared little boy becoming a man. He has to make a lot of tough choices between what’s lawful and what needs to be done. I think that’s what makes The Kid great– it’s got so much heart.
In case it’s not blatantly f*cking obvious, I fell head-over-heels for this movie. I’ve watched it multiple times in the few months since I bought the DVD (which was just days after borrowing that first library copy). I’ve also made everyone in my family watch it. It’s that good. I have NO idea why it got mixed reviews. Don’t listen to other reviewers, just listen to me.
Why are you even still reading this? Go watch The Kid right now.