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Saturday, September 01, 2018

Kin

In Kin, we're introduced to two brothers.  One of them is Eli (Myles Truitt), a fourteen-year-old kid who is adopted and discovers a strange alien ray gun while he is exploring a dilapidated old building.  He keeps the gun hidden under his bed, but likes to take it out now and then and pose with it in front of his mirror.  The other and older brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), has just been released from prison, doesn't have much of a future, and is in trouble with some criminals that he owes $60,000 to.  The gang's leader is played by James Franco, giving a seriously off-kilter performance, and not in a good or interesting way.

Eli and Jimmy live with their stern father (Dennis Quaid, making the most out of a limited role), who is trying to raise Eli right, and has pretty much given up hope on Jimmy.  There is some family tension in the home, particularly when Eli overhears an argument between his adopted father and brother, and Jimmy refers to Eli as a "replacement".  Up to this point, Kin plays as a moody family drama with a bizarre Sci-Fi bent, given the laser gun that young Eli has found.  I found myself somewhat intrigued about where the story could be going.  Having seen the film, I kind of wish I could go back to that early feeling of intrigue, as all that awaited me was disappointment.  I'm going to have to be vague here for the sake of spoilers, but things go south when Jimmy tries to get some money to pay off the criminals that's in a safe in dad's office at work.  Now Jimmy and Eli must hit the road, driving cross country to a cabin that the family owns in Tahoe.  Eli brings his alien weapon along with him, and no prizes for guessing if he will have to use it at some point.

This is a bizarre movie, but much like Franco's performance as the film's heavy, not in a good or interesting way.  We have the supernatural element of the alien gun, and the fact that the brothers are secretly being pursued by two armored soldiers from another world who want the gun back.  But the movie seldom takes advantage of the possibilities.  They're also being pursued by Franco and his men.  Again, they don't add up to much, despite Franco's chewing of the scenery.  What we do get are the brothers making a pit stop at a strip club (one of those rare PG-13 ones where nobody takes off their clothes), where they pick up a friendly stripper named Milly (Zoe Kravitz), who joins them in their adventure for a little while.  They use Eli's gun to hold up and rob some crooked card sharks, they hit Vegas, and then there's the big climactic showdown that leads to a last minute plot revelation concerning young Eli and the alien gun that is so absurd, you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Kind of like the Sci-Fi film we got last weekend, A.X.L., Kin seems confused as to just what it wants to be, or what audience it is speaking to.  It tries to be a movie about a dysfunctional family, a movie about two distant brothers bonding during a road trip, a movie about a young boy learning how to be a man, and a Sci-Fi epic all rolled into one.  I have no doubt that these elements could be combined into a successful movie.  Here, the elements are placed together in a disjointed and ill-formed manner by sibling filmmakers Jonathan and Josh Baker.  They just never seem to have a handle on the story they're telling, nor do they seem to know how to make it all that suspenseful or interesting.  There are long stretches where very little happens, and the information that we get about Eli and the gun are shoehorned in so abruptly and sloppily in about five minutes right near the end, it's almost comical.  It's obviously intended to be sequel bait, but it instead feels like the desperation of screenwriter Daniel Casey throwing up his hands and giving up on the plot.

There's also the troubling idea behind the character of Eli, which I'm not sure how audiences will react to.  This movie seems to be suggesting that he becomes a stronger and all around better person when he gets his hands on a gun, leading him to become a fine and upstanding young man.  That being said, the performance of young Myles Truitt is quite good, and easily the highlight of the film.  He gives Eli more personality than what's on the written page.  Everyone else comes across as oddly unlikable, especially Jack Reynor as his older brother Jimmy.  I understand that his character is supposed to be somewhat obnoxious and untrustworthy, but he still plays the character that way even when we're supposed to finally be warming up to him.

Kin is an overall confused movie that could have been fun in a crazy way if it wasn't so dire and dull in its storytelling.  There is no sense of the joy or energy that you would expect from a loopy premise such as this.  The whole thing ends on an open ended note that seems to hint at a sequel, but after everything that came before it, it can't help but feel like hopeless optimism on the part of the filmmakers.

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