Director: John Mark Robinson          
C. Thomas Howell, Sarah Trigger, Brian Austin Green

It can be tough, trying to find new movies that are not only real movies, but are also well made enough to be pleasing. Of course, if you are a regular reader of The Unknown Movies, you know where you can learn about such movies on a regular basis. But what happens once I pass on? What will you do when one night, Andy Sidaris (or Albert Pyun... or Cynthia Rothrock... or any of a number of other people I've thoroughly insulted on this web site) breaks into my room and murders me in my sleep? How will you, or anyone else for that matter, be able to find the kind of movies I was talking about in the first sentence of this paragraph? It is incredibly hard. In fact, it's much more easier to come up with general rules as to what kind of movies should be avoided. For example, any movies involving those three individuals I mentioned a few sentences ago. Or movies made by certain companies, like Le Monde, Phoenician Entertainment, or Franchise Pictures. There are occasional exceptions to such rules (for example Franchise Pictures was behind Boondock Saints), just like there are exceptions to the few rules that do exist in helping movie fans find worthy movies. Though in the past I've helped to point out that you typically can't go wrong with a western, The Stalking Moon showed that even a seemingly perfect genre can stumble once in a while.

The remaining rules don't as frequently strike gold as westerns, but they do help in at least considerably increasing your odds of success. Some of these rules can apply to a particular actor appearing in the movie in question. Hey, kid!For example, if you see a direct-to-video movie starring C. Thomas Howell, it is a strong possibility the movie will be at the very least above average for this particular genre. Serious. I can understand why you may find that hard to believe; after all, even today Howell is perhaps best known for the often cheesy teen movies in the early part of his career, like Soul Man or A Tiger's Tale. And those movies probably explain why he ended up in the straight to video market. But one he was there, Howell didn't do what most faded stars do once in that position, that being to accept just about any role for a paycheck regardless of quality. First of all, it seems he decided to give his image a complete makeover, so he wouldn't be stuck and restricted with a teeny-bopper image. He switched primarily to making action movies, playing hardened and often violent characters unlike what he'd played before, giving moviegoers something new to see. Second, he developed what seems to be a canny skill in choosing projects that had more of a chance of success. A number of these projected did end up being successful (The Sweeper), and even the ones that may not have ended up excellent or good (Hot Boyz) usually still have substantial merit. Howell has made the occasional utter bomb (Dilemma), but even factoring those mishaps, his batting average is still very good.

Kid marked Howell's first effort into the made-for-video genre, and proves to be another example of that rule. While the movie can't be considered excellent or good because of a fatal miscalculation during its conception, it can't be completely discounted because the remaining aspects are all accomplished with exceeding professionalism. As misguided as it may be at times, it still proves in the end to be better than many other made-for-video movies. It's a tale that takes place in one of those small desert towns that has seen better days, that is, if it had any in the first place. Where dust flies around due to a strong wind that beats around any movable wooden object with loud thumps, just before in the shimmering distance we see something moving towards to the town. Even if you haven't read the back of the video box, (or the description in your cable TV guide) you almost certainly at this point know what kind of movie this is going to be. It's going to be a revenge movie, the kind where a mysterious stranger comes to town and soon starts making trouble for all the citizens that deserve it. If the object moving towards town in the particular rendition of this formula you are watching isn't reflecting light, then you are watching a true western. If it is reflecting light, you know you'll be seeing a modern update of one. It's what we saw in The Stranger all over again, though here the stranger is male, and apparently doesn't have enough money to buy a motorbike, since he was riding on a bus that drops him off once in town.

We've seen this story many times before. But to that I say: So what? I personally enjoy this formula, and I am confident a lot of people would agree with me. One of the times you see Green in a low-budget movieI certainly can't speak for everyone when it comes to explaining why this familiar plot is so enjoyable, but I am pretty sure that many people would share my viewpoint that it is very satisfying to see someone not only stand up and vanquish scum in the worst way, but get away with it. Though there is certainly some advantage in making the punisher more of an ordinary figure - the audience would be able to better identify with that individual - at the same time it can't be denied that it's also enjoyable (though in a different sense) for that person to be shown as greatly skilled and confident. (If I could only be like him!) This movie's mysterious stranger doesn't get to show off many great skills, save for an ingenious way of combining a tennis ball with bug spray, but he does have the extreme cool common for his kind of persona. In his first real tough-guy role, Howell tackles it with as much confidence as his character has. Walking into rooms, his strut has the air of someone who doesn't seem to feel he needs to keep a close eye on anything happening around him. His eyes also have that detached feel, but at the same time you sense a strength behind them that could easily be let out. He doesn't raise his voice much, but somehow you can always tell by listening to it when he is losing his patience.

While Howell gives the "Kid" the tough guy air we welcome in characters like his, at the same time he and the screenplay give his character a few little twists so he doesn't become as interchangeable as admittedly many of these characters are. The Kid lets out a good and warm-hearted laugh at one point, showing a sense of humor. Though he's reserved and a little reluctant for companionship, the relationship he strikes up with the strong-minded woman (played by Turks' Trigger) that typically appears in movies like this does get him to develop a closeness of sorts. He also seems more tolerable of the wild behavior of her heavy metal-loving brother (Beverly Hills 90201's Green) than she seems to be. As you probably guessed, the Kid soon finds himself more or less a protector for the two siblings from a rotten element in the town, that being in this case the two rotten grown sons of the equally rotten town sheriff (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket). And this of course leads to several scenes where the two brothers get into confrontations with the Kid, but quickly find themselves running back to papa. Two of these scenes - all-out fistfights - are very well done, not lengthy but deliver the daily requirement of movie brutality. However, there are two other confrontations that are real disappointments, ending almost as soon as they begin, and simply refusing to fully exploit the art that can be found in wielding a mop handle or a pitchfork.

That's not the only problem I found regarding those two characters. Not too long into the movie, after the Kid has a couple or so confrontations with them, it soon becomes clear that they are not in any part in the Kid's plans. He finally got tired of people asking him what the "R" in his name stands forNeither do they influence other characters or outside events in any way that gets the Kid needing to think of new strategies. They are only in the movie in the first place because the movie seems to feel there would be a considerable lack in action sequences otherwise, which is made most painfully clear when near the end of the movie they pop out of nowhere to try and save a climax that would be best described as underwhelming. Making things worse is that they are underwhelming characters themselves, two chortling dolts who don't come across much more threatening than a schoolyard bully, and get their asses whupped in short notice each time they confront the Kid. They are not the only disappointing characters of an antagonistic nature in the movie. Ermery is appropriately mean and menacing as the sheriff, but he only appears in the movie for about three short scenes, which isn't enough time to make him a worthy threat. It's the same with the character played by Dale Dye (Band Of Brothers), even though you would think that the identity of his character would put a major complication on the Kid's plan when he (eventually) appears. It's even worse with two other characters on the Kid's hit list; in both cases, after their scene of introduction ends, they are immediately killed off by the Kid in the next scene.

Somewhat better character construction can be found with the roles Trigger and Green play. While the strong-minded woman Trigger plays really has nothing about her that we haven't seen before, all of these familiar attributes are at least presented in a way that gives you no doubts that such a character could exist in real life. Trigger herself gives a natural and unforced performance, showing both a sweetness and an assertiveness, though underplaying both sides just enough so that they don't come across as forced. As her brother, Green's appearance and voice creepily come across as effeminate at times, but despite those two strikes he does give an energetic performance that clearly shows he's having fun in his role. His character's obsession with heavy metal gives the movie some very welcome comic relief, including some absolutely hilarious one-liners.

I could go on longer into what works in Kid, like how great it looks despite a low budget (nicely-lensed Arizona locations.) But no matter how long the list is of good "Please don't let me Dye..."things is, it in no way is able to compensate for a single, yet fatal, misstep the movie makes. Though the movie may sounds like it's an intense and determined revenge movie, it feels anything but. This is an incredibly slow movie; minutes go by where the story comes to a complete halt and refuses to advance. The Kid himself doesn't seem that interested in completing things, and doesn't even seem to have any kind of real plan in mind when he comes into town. In fact, he only remembers what he came into town for in the first place whenever he just happens to bump into one of those men who did him wrong all those years ago. The rest of the time he mostly seems content to stay in his motel room, or hang around with Trigger and Green. Which of course lead to the inclusion of those two idiot brothers I previously mentioned, with their added shenanigans not really improving things much. If the movie had dropped those two idiots, then fully developed and extensively followed the chief villains (which in turn would have almost certainly made the Kid having a good reason to get up more and do more), we might have had something here. Yes, we've seen this same story many times before. That's not the problem - the problem is that we have already seen it done a lot better than it's done here.

This is a tag team review, pairing up with Kenner of Ziggy's Video Realm and Movies In The Attic. To read Kenner's review, click here!

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See also: Legacy Of Rage, Lone Hero, The Stranger