Ethan Hawke, who plays Pat Garrett in “The Kid,” (a film released earlier this year that didn’t get to Paris) has come a long way from the winsome young student he played in “Dead Poet’s Society,” “Before Sunrise” and “Snow Falling On Cedars.” His later roles just get darker and darker. And, being as fond of the Western genre as I am, I’m always happy to see him turn up in one, even if his character in this is reminiscent of his role in the 2016 re-make of “The Magnificent Seven.”
This film, directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, who came up with the story and plays a minor role as Sheriff Romero, is semi-biographical in that it offers a look at the circumstances in which Garrett killed young William Bonney, popularly known as Billy the Kid. Moreover, D’Onofrio’s story and Andrew Lanham’s screenplay includes the character of a young boy as a simile for Billy’s choices in his brief life.
There was a bit of brilliance in casting Dane Dehaan (“Valerian,” “The Amazing Spiderman 2”), who is remarkable similar to Leonardo DiCaprio in both appearance and personality, as Billy. Young Jake Shur plays Rio Cutler, who shoots his drunken father and kills him when he is beating their mother to death. Rio and his older sister, Sara (Leila George), flee, fearing he’ll be charged with murder. They meet Billy and some of his gang on the journey, who take them in — knowing Garrett and a posse aren’t far behind. The rest, as they say, is history.
It is easy for Rio to be charmed by Billy. He’s folksy, funny and nearly always positive. Plus, he and Rio share an unfortunate history with their parents. His charm is what made Billy the Kid such a popular figure in the “Wild West” of the late nineteenth century. But knowing the two men (Bonney and Garrett), Rio must decide which way he needs to go in his life — the lawlessness of Billy, or the appreciation of the law in a territory that sees both.
“The Kid” is as much about Garrett, who was brought up on a plantation in Louisiana, as it is about young Bonney. The destruction of the Civil War was ruinous to his family. Both parents died young and Garrett set out for the West to make a life for himself, settling first in Fort Sumner, New Mexico — the town Billy was from. Garrett drifted around New Mexico, signing on as a cowhand first, later involved in the famous Lincoln Wars, then taking positions in law enforcement, first as sheriff of Lincoln County, then as sheriff of Dona Ana County in the south, where Las Cruces is the county seat.
Garrett married in Fort Sumner, a Juanita Gutierrez, who died in childbirth. He then married her 17-year-old sister, Apolinaria, who gave him eight children. She outlived him nearly 30 years, living on a ranch he bought outside of Roswell, then in Las Cruces. My great-aunt Portia (also a rancher from Roswell) knew her and spoke of her. She said she was a tall, slender, beautiful woman, with long black and silver hair. She died in 1936. I found the proximity in time fascinating.
In “The Kid,” Hawke plays Garrett as a cautious lawman, but one willing to make time for a young man who needs guidance. While the meat of the script is a run-up to Garrett’s famous killing event, we find ourselves rooting for both Rio and Billy — knowing the outcome of one, and the tough decision for the other. If you’re a fan of the West, you’ll enjoy it.
See you at the movies.
Toni Clem is a Paris resident and has been writing Deja View for more than 30 years.