There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
Rio Cutler (Jake Schur) and his sister, Sara Cutler (Leila George), had an abusive father. Their father beat their mother, but one night it was worse than usual. He had just beaten their mother to death when Rio shot him dead. However, the death of their father does not mean that he and his sister are now safe. Their uncle, Grant Cutler (Chris Pratt) is enraged after what his niece and nephew did to his brother.
Rio and Sara narrowly escaped, but they have stumbled upon the famed outlaw known as Billy “The Kid” (Dane DeHaan). Billy has no intention of hurting Rio or his sister, and allows them to stay with him and his gang for safety. However, Billy is being hunted by Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). Rio and Sara find themselves caught in the middle of a famed killer and a sheriff determined to bring him to justice. However, their deranged uncle has not forgotten what they have done to his brother.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Billy & Rio (+4pts)
Rio’s Secret (-5pts)
The Sheriff (+4pts)
Dumb Decision (-3pts)
The Uncle (+4pts)
Time & A Slow Second Act (-4pts)
Pro: Billy & Rio (+4pts)
Initially, I liked the relationship between Billy and Rio a lot. Billy "The Kid" had clearly done bad things, and knew he had done bad things, but still saw himself as good. Thus, he enjoyed Rio's fascination with him, saw himself in Rio, wanted to take the boy under his wing, and genuinely cared about what happened to Rio and Sara. Then there was Rio, who saw what he did to his father as being the right thing and thought that made him and Billy "The Kid" the same. Rio saw Billy "The Kid" as his own future, and needed the outlaw's help to protect him and his sister from his uncle.
I liked the dynamic between these two characters. I thought the reasons that each character was drawn to the other was really interesting and added a lot of depth to both characters. It made Billy "The Kid" more complex than a stereotypical outlaw, and it made Rio more interesting than the typical distressed kid who goes running to the lawman for help. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers really dropped the ball with the storyline between these two characters after the jail sequence, but I liked the storyline enough before that point to still make their relationship one of this movie's strengths. Did the filmmakers stick the landing with these two? No, I do not think that they did, but I still really enjoyed the relationship between these two characters during the first half of the movie.
Con: Rio’s Secret (-5pts)
I was honestly pretty annoyed by this part of the story. I always hate when writers use unnecessary secrets as a means to force a story in a specific direction. I mean we have all seen shows or movies where characters kept secrets from other characters, when being honest would be the reasonable thing to do, and doing so would solve all of said character's problems. This movie was a movie that did that exact thing.
Rio felt that he had to hide what he had done to his father, even though any reasonable person would understand why he did what he did. I found it hard to believe that Rio and Sara would have thought that the Sheriff would not have understood Rio's actions. However, telling the Sheriff would have resulted in the story going in a direction that the filmmakers clearly did not want it to go in. It was lazy writing and his choice to continuously keep this secret kept making me smack my head in both disappointment with the filmmakers and annoyance with the character.
Pro: The Sheriff (+4pts)
There is not a whole lot to say about this character, because he was your average western protagonist, but I still liked the character. He was determined to bring Billy "The Kid" and his men to justice, and was willing to die trying to do so. He also saw that Billy "The Kid" was steering Rio down a bad path, and wanted to help. Despite his many failed attempts at getting Rio to do the right thing, the sheriff was unable to give up on the boy.
Again, he was your average western protagonist, but that worked for this movie. The movie had the famed outlaw, the deranged town bully, and characters in distress, so having an average western protagonist was the final piece of the puzzle, and Ethan Hawke delivered what this role needed him to. The character worked while not taking the spotlight away from the main character—Rio—which was important.
Con: Dumb Decision (-3pts)
This was another example of lazy writing, all to force the plot in a certain direction. At one point in this movie, a character lets Rio go, for seemingly no reason other than that the writers were not able to think of a better way for Rio to get out of the situation he was in. The character that made this decision had nothing to gain by doing this, and very blatantly created a potential threat for themself. It was just a dumb decision being used as a plot device, which was another example of lazy writing.
Pro: The Uncle (+4pts)
Grant Cutler was another character that I enjoyed. He was not in the movie a whole lot, but Chris Pratt played him well and made the character an intimidating presence over the entirety of the movie. During the long stretches of the story—in which Grant Cutler was off-screen—it was clear that his reappearance was inevitable, and it was clear that his reappearance would be bad news. In the grand scheme of things, he did not end up doing a whole lot, but he served his purpose as a threatening enemy who was bound to show up sooner or later. He was obviously a formidable antagonist for Rio and Sara, but I also believed that he would be formidable for Sheriff Pat Garrett or Billy “The Kid”. Neither of those two characters were even aware of his existence, yet the viewer knew he was coming and that he was bad news, which made him an effective, looming threat for this story.
Con: Time & A Slow Second Act (-4pts)
This was one part of the story that I found to be pretty confusing. After Rio was let go by the character that made that dumb decision that I mentioned earlier, there was clearly a jump in time that was not made clear. Basically, immediately after the scene that Rio was let go, other characters seemed to be very aware of what had happened, who was involved, and where the characters involved currently were. This suggested that a lot of time had past, when considering how these characters could have known what they had known in the age of the wild west.
It was not a huge issue, but I think the story would have been better off showing some of what happened during that gap. This thought was then validated when I realized how much the movie slowed down from the end of the second act through the beginning of the third. I do not want to say much regarding what the characters were doing to avoid spoilers, but this part of the story involved Rio and Billy "The Kid" and it seemed to drag on far longer than it needed to. Trimming this section down and using the screen-time to develop other characters—such as Grant Cutler or the Sheriff—would have been more interesting and would have helped make the climax of the movie more suspenseful.
Grade: C+ (75pts)
I saw this movie was on Hulu, and I was surprised that I had not heard about it before. It was a western starring Ethan Hawke as an honorable Sheriff, Dane DeHaan as Billy "The Kid", and Chris Pratt as a deranged outlaw. To start, I liked the relationship between Billy "The Kid" and the boy. Both characters had their own reasons for friending the other, and I liked the depth that their relationship added to each character. Then there was Ethan Hawke who was effective as the honorable western hero, and Chris Pratt who was just as effective as the looming threat over the rest of the story.
Unfortunately, I think the filmmakers struggled to bring this idea to the screen. They utilized dumb decisions as plot devices, random gaps in the story that should have been developed further, and drawn out sections in the story that should have been trimmed down, but my biggest issue with the movie was Rio's unnecessary secret. This was one of those movies where a character unnecessarily kept a secret, when being honest very obviously would have solved all of their problems. I went into this movie hopeful—as I liked the premise and the cast—but the filmmakers made some poor decisions when bringing this story to the screen, and it resulted in a very average movie.