So Rio and and Sara Cutler are a couple of old-timey kids living in a cabin with their folks, listening to their dad beat their mom to death as she pleads for the kids to run and hide. They do not. Rio (Jake Schur), though only 14, pulls a gun on his dad and kills him. That buys them only a few minutes because pretty soon their uncle Grant (Chris Pratt) is kicking in the door, ready to murder his little nephew in turn. This family has some major issues.
Stabbing him in the face buys Rio and Sara a little time: they go on the run. But trouble finds them yet again when they wake up having spent the night in a shared hideout with Billy The Kid. (Dane DeHaan). Billy The Kid was an outlaw and a gunslinger, wanted for theft and murder and other fun things like that. But if having a known murderer sharing your pillow isn’t bad enough (just kidding: they didn’t have pillows), Billy has also attracted the attention of a local sheriff, Pat (Ethan Hawke). Pat’s a little obsessed with bringing Billy to justice, and after shooting an innocent horse in the head he gets Billy to surrender, and he gets two orphans with a questionable back story as a bonus (Rio and Sara are understandably a little reluctant to confess their crime to the long arm of the law).
Cue a road trip via horse and buggy, half filled with orphans hitching a ride to their nearest known relative, and half filled with outlaws on their way to the gallows. Billy shows the kids more kindness than the sheriff does, and an uneasy alliance shifts the power dynamic in curious ways.
Which actually makes it sound not half bad, and that’s true. It’s not half bad. It’s all bad. Okay, so technically it’s well-framed enough that it looks like a series of Louis L’Amour cover shoots. If your grandpa is more literary-minded than mine, you might not know that Louis L’Amour is the male equivalent of a romance novel. They’re country western novels with cowboys who spit and grunt and ride off stoically into the sunset. And instead of Fabio on the cover, it’s tough looking cowpokes with 5 o’clock shadow and a piece of wheat chaff between their lips.
The movie sidelines female characters and has mixed messages about whether we should look up to Billy The Kid or de-mythologize about him. But aside from a few nice moments, this movie is just blah enough to get away with its flaws because I’m quite confident this film will go unwatched with or without my help. But for the record: do not.