Review: THE KID Is A Fun Old-School Western

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Sara Cutler (Leila George) and Rio Cutler (Jake Schur) in THE KID. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

The Kid is a new Western film directed by Vincent D’Onofrio and starring Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, and Dane DeHaan. The movie tells the story of a young boy who, on the run with his sister, encounters the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid and the lawman that is pursuing him, Sheriff Pat Garrett.

The way in which the film approaches the story is quite interesting. There are plenty of movies about Billy the Kid, so presenting these events from another perspective is a refreshing spin. Andrew Lanham’s script follows the beats of a traditional western very closely, but also effectively, as the end result is a quite compelling and enjoyable watch.

One of the biggest successes of the film is in its character development. The protagonist, Rio, is a very likable and sympathetic character. The opening scene of the movie immediately connects the audience with him because of the unusual situation in which he was placed. Many of the other characters, specifically Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, are presented from a morally ambiguous standpoint which allows the audience to make their own decisions.

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Billy “The Kid” Bonney (Dane DeHaan) and Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) in THE KID. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

Perhaps the film’s biggest shortcoming is that it does not fully develop some of the themes which it seems to be setting out to explore in the beginning of the story. In a few scenes, the script seems to be diving into the psychology of a criminal by posing questions about Billy’s and Rio’s mentalities. However, before this can gain any steam, the movie moves on to another action sequences.

The film is very tightly paced, and that is certainly a plus. Most modern westerns tend to meander, and that is not the case with this movie. It manages to jump from action sequence to action sequence with very little downtime and without sacrificing much in the terms of character development. Although the film could have spared a few minutes here and there to make the thematic focus clearer, it is satisfying nonetheless.

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Sara Cutler (Leila George), Rio Cutler (Jake Schur) and Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) in THE KID. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

All of the actors in the ensemble deliver very strong turns. The child actor, Jake Schur, does an excellent job in his first role. He brings both the emotion and the strength that the role calls for. We can look forward to seeing more great things from him in the future. Ethan Hawke and Dane DeHaan look like they are having an absolute blast acting in a western, so it is an absolute joy to watch them, especially when they’re together. Chris Pratt is strong as well, but his role is quite small.

In technical terms, the movie is strong. The overall look of the film is great, with some absolutely wonderful periodization. The cinematography by Matthew J. Lloyd and the production design by Sara K. White do an excellent job of giving the movie the classic look of the genre with a crisp picture. The score by Latham and Shelby Gaines also does a good job of setting the feel of the film.

Overall, The Kid was a very solid movie. Even though it may be straightforward, it is very well-made and has some excellent performances from its leads.

The Kid opens in theaters March 8.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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