Dane DeHaan (left) plays Billy the Kid and and Ethan Hawke portrays Pat Garrett in “The Kid.” (Lionsgate)

Dane DeHaan (left) plays Billy the Kid and and Ethan Hawke portrays Pat Garrett in “The Kid.” (Lionsgate)

‘Kid’ tells familiar Western tale through a child’s eye

A strong cast and a real feel for the genre partially overcomes terrible music and other flaws.

How many movies can we make about Billy the Kid? As long as there’s a new angle on the tale, the answer is: countless.

“The Kid” has the an appealing idea: What if an adolescent boy, slapped around by Old West fate, found himself in the company of the Kid during the outlaw’s final months?

This perspective belongs to Rio (newcomer Jake Schur), who escapes a toxic family situation in league with his older sister (Leila George). By chance, they happen upon sleepy-eyed William Bonney (Dane DeHaan), a cocky and unkempt fellow who has run afoul of law enforcement. People call him Billy the Kid.

Rio develops some serious hero worship around Billy — not exactly an accurate impression of the outlaw. The film notes that the truth doesn’t seem to matter much, just the stories that people tell. Which is how Billy the Kid became a legend.

If you’ve heard the story of Billy the Kid, or just the exaggerated versions of that story, you’ll recognize some of the events here. We see Billy’s suspenseful escape from a New Mexico prison, and his cat-and-mouse game with Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke), the lawman chasing him.

The new wrinkle is Rio’s viewpoint. He wants Billy’s help, because a deranged uncle (Lake Stevens’ Chris Pratt, almost unrecognizable beneath a questionable beard) is hounding Rio and his sister.

“The Kid” has a strong cast, and it boasts an unexpected director: Vincent D’Onofrio, whose career has mostly been spent in front of the camera (including the recent Western remake, “The Magnificent Seven,” where he co-starred with Hawke and Pratt).

A gifted actor himself, D’Onofrio has a tendency to seek out the more eccentric aspects of his characters, and he allows his cast to do the same here. Pratt has a few splendidly out-there moments, Hawke delivers his customary strong work (he’s that rare actor who actually looks like he could have sprung from the Old West), and this is the best performance given by the perpetually disheveled DeHaan (recently miscast in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”).

D’Onofrio appears briefly himself, and provides good roles for supporting actors, including Adam Baldwin and Ben Dickey, the songwriter-star of Hawke’s 2018 indie film, “Blaze.”

I wish “The Kid” added up to more, because the concept is promising, and D’Onofrio obviously has affection for the Western — he even introduces Billy in a re-creation of the only known photograph of the Kid. There are scenes here, like Pat Garrett puffing on a cigar by a grove of yellow trees, or a drunken conversation by flickering candlelight, that could fit into any classic Western.

The film has a cheap, rushed feel to it, a few cringey anachronisms and a smothering music score that doesn’t let you breathe. These things work against it, but if you like Westerns, check it out anyway. There’s still something to be said about the myth of Billy the Kid, and how it inevitably says something about us.

“The Kid” (2½ stars)

A new take on the Billy the Kid story, this time seen through the eyes of an adolescent runaway who crosses paths with the violent William Bonney (played here by Dane DeHaan). Vincent D’Onofrio directed this version, and while it has glaring shortcomings, it’s got a strong cast and a good feel for the Western. With Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt.

Rating: R, for violence, subject matter

Opening Friday: Alderwood Mall, Meridian and video on demand

Talk to us

More in Life

R.J. Whitlow, co-owner of 5 Rights Brewery, has recently expanded to the neighboring shop, formerly Carr's Hardware. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
County craft breweries’ past lives: hardware store, jail

Most breweries in Snohomish County operate in spaces that formerly housed something far different — from boat builders to banks.

Caption: Stay-at-home parents work up to 126 hours a week. Their labor is valuable even without a paycheck.
A mother’s time is not ‘free’ — and they put in 126-hour workweeks

If you were to pay a stay-at-home mom or dad for their time, it would cost nearly $200,000 a year.

Linda Miller Nicholson from Fall City, Washington, holds up rainbow pasta she just made in the commercial kitchen at her Fall City home, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.  The rainbow wall behind her is in her backyard. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle TImes/TNS)
This King County woman’s rainbow pasta signals her values

Linda Miller Nicholson sculpts colorful noodles that reflect her personality and pro-LGBTQ+ pride.

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Rotisserie chicken is paired with butter beans, dried dates and arugula in this simple salad dressed in a smoky vinaigrette. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Winter chicken salad packed with good-for-you greens

Served with crusty Italian bread and a glass of pale ale, it makes a quick and easy supper.

How to cultivate inner peace in the era of COVID, insurrection

Now more than ever, it’s important that we develop and practice relaxation and mindfulness skills that calm our minds and bodies.

Budapest’s House of Terror.
Cold War memories of decadent Western pleasures in Budapest

It’s clear that the younger generation of Eastern Europeans has no memory of the communist era.

Gardening at spring. Planting tree in garden. Senior man watering planted fruit tree at his backyard
Bare root trees and roses have arrived for spring planting

They’re only available from January through March, so shop early for the tree or rose you want.

Help! My Expedia tour credit is about to expire

Kent York cancels his tour package in Norway that he booked through Expedia after the pandemic outbreak. But the hotel won’t offer a refund or extend his credit. Is he about to lose $1,875?

Most Read