In Vincent D’Onofrio’s sophomore directorial outing, the “Kingpin” of Brooklyn puts Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Chris Pratt, and newcomer Jake Schur through the paces of the final year of Billy the Kid’s life. While more famous versions (Young Guns I & II) exist, this version proves to be just as interesting, and potentially more philosophical than its contemporaries. It’s finally a western that stands next to other great cowboy flicks, entertaining and provocative, shot with flair and substance, too.
Even if the title isn’t about William Bonney AKA Billy the Kid (originally named Henry McCarty, but who’s keeping track?) The titular kid is Rio Cutler (Schur), a young man who kills his father in self-defense and ends up on the run from a murderous uncle played by Pratt. Cutler and his sister fall in first with Billy (DeHaan), purely by accident, before they’re caught up in Sheriff Pat Barrett’s (Hawke) war against the Kid. But when Pratt’s uncle shows up, kidnapping his sister, Rio needs help getting her back.
Will he be the younger version of Billy or Garrett? Will he choose the legal route or the lawless one? When he frees his sister, if he frees her, will it matter?
Like D’Onofrio’s roles, there’s a fair amount of talking here, but there’s also some “showing,” too. It’s not simply a question of entertainment or historical evaluation, but a carefully crafted parable where we can see how similar Billy and Garrett are – and how a series of events have left them on opposite sides of the legal ledger. Interesting, you say? Absolutely. It’s no wonder D’Onofrio would accept this as his second outing, given his deep philosophical leanings (see: Twitter). Maybe, The Kid proposes, it’s nature and nurture, luck and effort, chance and purpose, and opportunity. It’s all mixed up in a bag together.
When it comes to the kid in question, we might even find ourselves questioning our own decisions, and reflecting on how we got here – whether we consider that by chance, our own desire, or divine providence.