Directed by Vincent D’onofrio (the actor whose definitive performance was Gomer Pyle in Full Metal Jacket, and who has since moved into directing), The Kid gives a different take on the Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid story, which of course has been done before. It’s not as good as Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, but then very few westerns are.
Ethan Hawke plays Garrett, and Dane DeHaan is Billy The Kid (he also played Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings, and has played James Dean as well). The problem with DeHaan is he’s too good-looking and too old to resemble the real outlaw, and he often seems to be basically imitating James Dean. The film mostly takes places after Garrett captures The Kid, and it’s told through the eyes of a 13-year-old kid called Leo (Jack Schur) who has killed his father, which is a unique angle.
It’s the first new version of this true legendary Western story, which is only eclipsed by the tale of Wyatt Earp, in over 20 years. But while it does tell the story and tries to do so in an interesting way, it never really comes together. It ought to be much more compelling, given that it has one of the best actors in this generation in a lead role. Hawke is good of course, but he always is. D’onofrio co-wrote the script with Andrew Lanham, but it falls a little flat. Also, at times it looks too cheap for its own good, often a problem with westerns.
It probably would have worked better if the story had started before The Kid’s capture. The real villain of the whole thing is Chris Pratt, Leo’s uncle, who is hunting down Leo. The original story would’ve worked better as a stand alone film without slicing in the Pat Garret and Billy The Kid story as filler. As it stands, it’s pretty bland. But at 100 minutes it moves along at a reasonable pace, and serves up an OK western with some good acting.
There is a short making-of on the disc.