This review contains spoilers.
The Kid is a story about survival: a true story that recounts the life of Kevin Lewis, his struggles and opportunities, and finally his success. And while it is a remarkable story, the film does little to bring it to life.
Kevin (played by Rupert Friend) grew up in a house full of violence, on a council estate in London. As a child and again as a teenager he was repeatedly beaten by his mother and neglected by his alcoholic father. Locked in a room with nothing but a flimsy mattress, Kevin would scribble pictures on the walls to help him “think about things”. As a ten-year-old boy Kevin was placed into foster care, only to be returned to his family months later based thanks to a social worker’s poor judgement. It took a trip to the emergency room when Kevin was a teenager to result in his removal from the family home for good. Things began to look up – Kevin is taken in by a friendly couple, attends a new school, and develops a dream of working in the London stock exchange. After leaving school early, however, Kevin realises that getting a job in the London business world isn’t as easy as he had imagined. Left alone again, Kevin falls into debt and begins fighting in an underground boxing ring for cash. Known as The Kid, Kevin is a ferocious boxer – drawing on memories of the violence and rage he experienced as a child. His ‘manager’, a man Kevin has trusted since he was a teenager, helps him to set up his own bar, only to siphon off the profits and blame Kevin for the losses. At Kevin’s lowest point he has lost his bar and his girlfriend. All he has left is the fighting. He decides to end it, getting himself beaten to within an inch of his life and crawling back to his childhood room where he has set up a row of pills and a bottle of alcohol. He survives the suicide attempt, and decides to get revenge. He goes to an accountant, buys a gun, and goes back to the bar to demand everything he is owed. Frightened, they give it to him. Kevin then writes a book about his life to give to his girlfriend, and after reading it she becomes his wife. That same book becomes a bestseller, and Kevin lives happily ever after.
It is an incredible story – a testament to the ability of human beings to overcome what seem to be impossible odds. And Kevin is a great character. In the film he is thin and weedy, small and soft-spoken but with a frightening capacity for violence. There is a rage quietly bubbling beneath the surface, despite his best efforts to contain it and live a good life.
But the film does not carry the story across the way that it should. The violence is brutal, and the characters are well portrayed. But there is something about the way the scenes are pieced together, about the way the dialogue sounds and the camera is angled that does not quite work. Some things happen too quickly, others too slowly. In one scene, the camera pans around a classroom repeatedly, to illustrate how many times Lewis has been in detention. By the fifth or sixth rotation I was feeling dizzy. And the ending comes to quick, and is too perfect. For someone that has gone through what Lewis has, taking a gun and intimidating some criminals surely cannot solve everything. It was a little too shiny at the end, too much of a fairytale finish – too quick a jump from rock bottom to marriage and babies and a bestselling book and picnics on the lawn. I’m sure all these things actually happened, but there must have been more of a struggle along the way.
In the end, The Kid felt clumsily written and poorly directed. Kevin’s story was not lost, but the film did nothing to make it more moving.
The Kid, released in 2010, was directed by Nick Moran.