Directed by Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker.
Starring Myles Truitt, Jack Reynor, James Franco. Zoë Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, Gavin Fox, Lily Gao, Carleigh Beverly, Romano Orzari, Ian Matthews, Khalid Klein, and Michael B. Jordan.
Chased by a vengeful criminal, the feds and a gang of otherworldly soldiers, a recently released ex-con and his adopted teenage brother are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.
Of all the things wrong with Kin (the feature-length directorial effort from brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker, adapting their own short film Bag Man with some co-writing assistance from Daniel Casey), it’s probably best to begin with the reason brothers Eli (newcomer Myles Truitt) and Jimmy (Jack Reynor) are on the run from apparently dangerous criminals and law enforcement.. Without explaining the set up in detail, much of the story hinges on the audience buying into James Franco’s Taylor and his ragtag group of thugs as some of the most deplorable criminals to ever exist, threatening beyond measure. Maybe this would be believable if there weren’t scenes such as the villain whipping his penis out in the middle of a gas station when told that only paying customers are allowed to use the bathroom. It’s hilarious, yes, but doesn’t do too much too boost his credibility as a man to fear, especially when entering a police station, shooting up officers that react with ridiculous levels of incompetence
To be fair to the movie, Taylor does harm an important character early on earning him a few points on the menace scale, but even then the situation leading up to that deadly encounter feels wholly unnecessary. There is a key line in the film from the father (Dennis Quaid) of these non-blood related brothers regarding how doing the right thing often is something difficult, but it’s hard not to feel like everything Jimmy does is either irresponsible or flat-out stupid. We get it, he went to prison for six years, got released, and owes a small group of people a whole lot of money, so why not just inform the police about that instead of making poor decisions that lead down a rabbit hole of unfortunate events? This would be acceptable if the character learned or grew throughout the film, but he doesn’t; yes, it’s clear he deeply loves Eli and the two actors admittedly do have great chemistry as far as the bonding segments go, but we also can’t help but feel he’s selfish and a terrible temporary guardian when he takes the 14-year-old child to a bar featuring exotic dancers.
Speaking of which, one of them turns out to be Zoe Kravitz in a rather thankless role; she has no character and only one purpose, eliciting only laughter when it is realized during the ending. She pops up throughout the middle of the film and is entirely written out until the story demands her to reappear. It’s just one of many examples of the amateurish script that employs everything from cheesy one-liners to predictable plot points that can be seen from miles away. Even James Franco takes absolutely forever catching up to these brothers despite stumbling into knowledge of their location multiple times. For someone that wants his money back, he sure isn’t in a rush. Just don’t tell him he can’t use the bathroom. Also, another narrative device springing the road trip in motion is Jimmy coming up with sketchy reasons as to why their father is busy and why they should go on an adventure. Eli does somewhat question this but never really digs too deep, which treats the teenager as if he’s stupid more than anything. Don’t even get me started on the cliché manner in which he finds out what is truly going on.
Reading this review it’s safe to assume you’re probably thinking 1) “This movie sounds terrible” and 2) “Wait, I thought this had a sci-fi twist and crazy ray guns that disintegrate people and cause explosions”! Kin works as hard as it can to avoid explaining anything about the origins of a seemingly alien race with their own weapon technology doing… who the hell knows what, operating in the shadows. Eli comes into possession of this dangerous weapon (something his brother Jimmy encourages and treats like a toy, which probably is not the best way to depict a firearm, even if it is futuristic, in this day and age), which definitely comes in handy during a number of encounters that usually don’t have much of anything to do with the bigger picture of the narrative. By the time anything is actually revealed, it’s difficult to care anymore and it just comes across as shameless sequel planning with little to no foresight.
I’m all for withholding details and making audiences work to understand things about the world they are being dropped into. Initially, it felt like a bold, plausible move by Kin to not give us any text backstory or even tell us what year the story takes place in, simply hinting at something else going on with interludes of another species also trying to track the brothers on the run. However, there comes a point where no information becomes a detraction, and answers that are given out simply aren’t satisfactory enough. Adding on to that, a sequel isn’t going to make people magically give a damn.
Still, it’s unfair to punish Kin too hard, as there are some worthy acting performances from all involved. Young Myles is terrific with facial expressions showing both excitement and fear at what he is capable of with the otherworldly space gun, Jack Reynor does occasionally have moments of self-disgust at his actions, and James Franco, miscast, is definitely a welcome humorous presence that probably could have made the role work with a slightly better posse and more dangerous weaponry. Also, the brief special effects during the climax are a nice treat. Many of the ideas within the overall narrative are solid, but stretching things into a full-blown narrative feature might have stretched things too far. There are too many moments where the film feels like it’s going nowhere, which is a bad thing in this case. Simply put, Kin definitely has some exciting bits, but commits too many cinema sins.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com