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“The Kid” Is A Well Made Yet Unexceptional Western

There are generally two types of Westerns that a filmmaker can craft these days. One way to make them is to try and pay homage to the classics and attempt to capture that feel. It’s old fashioned, but it can often work. The other way is to try and re-invent the genre, turning it on its side. That’s far riskier, but the potential outcome can be revelatory. If you don’t take one of these patches, it’s hard to figure out what you’re trying to say with your film. Unfortunately, actor and director Vincent D’Onofrio falls into that trap with The Kid. He’s crafted a well made Western, but it has nothing to say. The result is, sadly, a disappointment.

The movie is, of course, a Western, centered on the final days of the long brewing showdown between Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) and the famous outlaw Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan). They both come into contact with a young boy named Rio (Jake Schur), a kid forced to go on the run. He’s traveling across the American Southwest in the hopes of protecting his sister Sara (Leila George) from his evil uncle Grant Cutler (Chris Pratt). Eventually, Grant kidnaps Sara, leading Rio to need help in order to save her. As Rio interacts with both notable historical figures, they influence him in different ways. It all builds, in true Western fashion, to a gunfight. The aforementioned D’Onofrio directs from a script by Andrew Lanham, while also playing a small part. Supporting players include Adam Baldwin, Ben Dickey, Tait Fletcher, and more. Latham Gaines and Shelby Gaines composed the score together, while Matthew J. Lloyd handled the cinematography.

I was left wanting more from this flick. D’Onofrio makes it look and feel like a Western, but without any of the extra heft or extra fun that a good one should possess. Hawke is his solid self as Pat Garrett, while DeHaan is charming in a small scale way as Billy the Kid. On the flip side, Pratt is disappointing as the villain, not bringing much to the table, while young Schur doesn’t leave an impression with the lead role. Child actors in the lead can be touchy, and this choice doesn’t pay off here. It’s all part of the anonymous and unexceptional feel that permeates the project.

As a director, D’Onofrio has improved greatly since his feature debut Don’t Go in the Woods, which was a pretty rough sit. This is a far more accomplished effort, just one that lacks anything distinctive. This effort from D’Onofrio is undeniably well made. It just simply comes off as unexceptional and never rouses you from a low gear. He filled the cast with solid actors, that’s for sure. He certainly is showing promise. The thing is, there’s unfortunately nothing really to get excited about here. I will say, however, that whatever he chooses to make next, that could be the movie to really get intrigued to see. If Don’t Go in the Woods was too ambitious and messy, The Kid is too by the numbers. He’ll find the right mix soon.

Starting tomorrow, audiences who enjoy Westerns can give The Kid a shot when it opens. It’s a film that’s hitting theaters without a wave of enthusiasm, so if you’re interested in seeing it, it’ll be something to seek out in short order. D’Onofrio could very well make a great Western next time around if he decides that’s what he wants to do. For now, this is just too by the numbers and too uninspired to fully work. It’s not something to avoid, but there’s not a huge reason to go looking too hard for it either. If you’re a fan of Hawke, perhaps this is worthy checking out. Either way, the choice is yours…

The Kid is in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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