By Daniel O’Connell
Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for the movie Kin
August through September is an interesting time of year when it comes to movies. It falls between the big summer blockbusters and the time where studios release their contenders for the Oscars. Therefore, it is often used as a dumping ground for the movies studios don’t know what to do with. Kin is definitely one of those movies. Directed by Johnathan and Josh Baker, and based on their short film Bag Man, the film had the potential to be interesting. The result, however, is a film with wasted potential and serious tonal inconsistencies.
Great performances and presentation
Kin is the story of Elijah “Eli” Solinski (Myles Truitt), a teenager in Detroit who lives with his adoptive father Hal (Dennis Quaid) and with Jimmy (Jack Reynor), his ex-con brother who has been recently paroled. Eli spends his time looking around abandoned factories and yards for copper wire to sell. During one of his salvages, he discovers the aftermath of a battle between mysterious armored soldiers, and finds a mysterious, high tech weapon. He takes the weapon back home, only to find out that Jimmy owes money to local gangster Taylor Balik (James Franco). After a scuffle that leaves Hal dead, Eli and Jimmy find themselves on the run with $60,000 in cash and a mysterious weapon in tow. The two are pursued by Taylor, who wants to kill Jimmy for killing his brother Dutch. Two mysterious, armored soldiers are also in pursuit of the weapon.
One of the main strengths of the film is its performances. For a first-time actor, Myles Truitt gives a good performance as Eli, making him come across as a believable teenager. The same goes for Jack Reynor as Jimmy, who brings a natural likability to the character, and makes him come across as someone who’s trying to reconnect with his brother while protecting him. Reynor and Truitt have good chemistry with one another and can convincingly play a pair of adoptive brothers. Despite his short amount of screen time, Dennis Quaid does a good job as Hal, who is tough on his adopted son, but only because he cares for him and doesn’t want him to end up like Jimmy. However, the standout performance comes from James Franco, who plays Balik with a casual calmness. This calmness gives way to a deadly seriousness when he hunts down Eli and Jimmy for revenge. A stand out scene occurs when he gives a eulogy for his dead brother, reminiscing about a time where Dutch beat up a neighborhood bully so he could get back Balik’s Walkman.
Another highlight of the film is its visual aesthetic and score. The score was done by the Scottish rock band Mogwai. Rather than a traditional orchestral score, the film uses an electronic/synth score. It fits with the feel and visual aesthetic of the film. The design of the weapon and the two soldiers in pursuit of it are also unique and interesting. The weapon Eli finds stands out, coming off as a cross between a phaser and a rail gun with a holographic interface. It has an ability to take on a compact form and comes with different modes of firing. The two soldiers are also have a striking, threatening look to them—coming across as a mix between Judge Dredd and Daft Punk. Their scenes in the movie are some of the film’s highlights as they show off technology like a drone that can recreate events in holographic form.
Trouble with tone
The biggest problem with Kin that drags it down is its uneven tone. There are two different narratives fighting for attention. One is a science fiction adventure about a mysterious weapon. The other is a drama about two brothers reconnecting and bonding with each other while on the run. This makes the film’s tone seem unbalanced and even jarring at times. One scene focuses on Jimmy teaching Eli how to drive, while the next shows the two futuristic soldiers breaking into a motorcycle dealership to acquire transportation. It gives the audience a serious case of whiplash as if there are two different movies on screen.
Another problem is the pacing of the movie. There are several scenes that feel like they should have been left on the cutting room floor. This includes a scene where Jimmy and Eli rob a criminal’s poker game and a bizarre scene where Balik urinates in front of a gas station clerk after being told that the restrooms are for employees only. These should have been cut out of the final product. The same can go for a character named Milly (Zoë Kravitz), a stripper that Eli and Jimmy and take along with during their journey. Her character honestly contributes nothing to the overall plot, and only serves as someone else for Eli and Jimmy to talk to.
Another major problem with the film comes with the ending, particularly a revelation regarding Eli, the two mysterious soldiers, and the weapon. It opens up a whole new realm of ideas and concepts that could be explored. However, the problem with this is that the movie saves this for the very end. Any potential exploration that could be done with this is thrown by the wayside.
Featured image from the Official Kin Movie Site
'Kin' is a movie that is aided by its strong performances, fantastic score, and interesting visual aesthetic. However, its shortcomings of tone and pacing issues, as well as wasted potential that comes with its ending, drag it down. All in all, it’s a movie that’s best saved to watch on Netflix on a lazy Saturday.
Score and Aesthetic
Daniel is a Journalism major and a History minor. Daniel’s hobbies include playing video games, watching movies, writing short stories and fan fiction, and listening to music. He hopes to use his work at Byte as a stepping stone for his journalism career.