There’s gunplay aplenty here, but nothing about “The Kid” sets it apart from the many Billy the Kid movies that have preceded it. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio are back in the saddle again in “The Kid.”
Compadres in the 2016 remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” they return to the Old West in a tale centered around the exploits of Billy the Kid.
Hawke plays Billy’s nemesis, Sheriff Pat Garrett. A heavily bearded Pratt is cast as a vile brute far more villainous than Billy, and D’Onofrio has a minor role as a frontier lawman. He also directed the picture.
From Paul Newman in “The Left Handed Gun” to Kris Kristofferson in “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid,” the list of movie actors who have strapped on six-guns to portray the outlaw also known as William Bonney is a long one. It’s Dane DeHaan who does the deed in “The Kid.” It’s a so-so performance.
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Like virtually all the others who have essayed the role, he’s too old for the character. He’s in his late 30s (as were Newman and Kristofferson).
Billy was 21 when he was gunned down by Garrett in New Mexico in 1881, but DeHaan’s Billy has a maturity about him that seems characteristic of an older man. He’s given to waxing philosophical about the burden of being a killer. He’s haunted by the memory of the first man he shot.
The title notwithstanding, he’s not the central figure in the picture. The kid in “The Kid” is a 14-year-old named Rio (Jake Schur), who crosses paths with Billy while fleeing from the boy’s vengeful Uncle Grant (Pratt).
The picture starts with domestic abuse and murder as Rio shoots his father, who is beating his mother one night in their cabin. He and his sister Sara (Leila George) steal a horse and take off into the darkness to escape the wrath of his father’s brother Grant. Darkness is a signature visual motif, with much of the action taking place in gloomy bars, cabins, bordellos and lockups.
The story is one of a battle for the boy’s soul. He hero-worships the charismatic Billy, admiring his boldness and feels a kinship with him for having himself killed a man at a young age. (Billy confides he took his first life at age 13.)
Garrett, a harsh moralist, is the boy’s other possible role model. No fan of Billy’s, though they have a shared history in the gunfighting trade, Garrett faces down a lynch mob that wants to string the outlaw up. Billy deserves to hang, but Garret says he needs to be tried first and the sheriff puts his life on the line to see that justice is fairly administered.
Hawke gives the strongest performance as a man of few illusions who sees good in Rio despite the boy’s attraction to the dark side.
There’s gunplay aplenty, but nothing about “The Kid” sets it apart from the many Billy movies that have preceded it.
★★ “The Kid,” with Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Jake Schur, Leila George, Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Pratt. Directed by D’Onofrio, from a screenplay by Andrew Lanham. 104 minutes. Rated R for violence and language. Opens March 8 at multiple theaters.