The Sci-Fi thriller Kin has arrived! Does it live up the genre billing? What is the story actually like? Find out in our review!
More Coming of Age, Crime Drama Less Sci-Fi
Four years ago, Jonathan and Josh Baker, two brothers from Australia, came up with the idea for a short film about a quiet young boy who spends his day walking along rural New York with a giant bag. Eventually, it’s revealed that this giant bag is home to a massive, futuristic weapon, capable of disintegrating people and blasting cars several meters away. This film was called Bag Man, and became the basis for Lionsgate’s feature film, Kin.
Before you see Kin, it’s important to understand that watching Bag Man is not necessary. If you’re a film buff, I’d recommend watching it, purely for the visuals. If you’re a casual moviegoer, Bag Man serves as the inspiration, not an origin or anything else.
Kin tells the story of Elijah Solinski (Myles Truitt) and his adopted family, Hal (Dennis Quaid) and Jimmy (Jack Reynor). Eli is a good kid, but a bit of a loner since the death of his adopted mother. When he gets into trouble at school for fighting, he decides to spend his suspension riding around town, collecting copper and assorted metal from abandoned buildings. All is well in the scrapping business, until the day he stumbles upon these futuristic-looking men and a unique weapon. When Eli decides to take that weapon home, it begins a manhunt for the missing weapon.
When you watch the previews for this movie, it would be fair to assume that this description of Kin is the main plot of the story. You’d guess that it’s mainly a science fiction film. Those assumptions, while fair, would be wrong.
In truth, Kin is hardly a Sci-Fi film. It’s actually more of a Coming-of-Age Crime Drama. That’s because the true plot of Kin has to do with Eli’s brother Jimmy getting out of prison, coming home, and revealing that he owes a deranged arms dealer, Taylor Balik (James Franco), $60,000. When tragedy strikes in the act of getting this money, Eli and his family have to flee their home, to get away from their deadly pursuers.
Throughout Kin, these two storylines weave in and out of each other on screen, with the coming-of-age crime drama occupying most of the film. Thus, it creates a deliberately slow pace that you wouldn’t expect going into Kin. If you enter the theater expecting a high-octane thrill-ride, like the trailers and commercials want you to expect, you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you allow this film permeate and grow as the Bakers intended, you’ll find that it’s an enjoyable, special story, with all the bones of being an incredible franchise.
Starpower for the Sake of Starpower
Some could point to the slow pace and the false-advertising as the biggest negatives in Kin. For me, that’s not necessarily the case. I understand the slow pace. It makes sense for this kind of story. As for the false-advertising, you can never blame that on the movie, but on the executives trying to sell. For a film like Kin that isn’t getting a big advertising budget, they’re just trying to make lemonade out of lemons and get butts into seats, no matter what.
My main problem with the film was the misuse of talent at their disposal. Kin boasts a somewhat star-studded cast of whos-who in Hollywood and half of them barely have a role. As I always do before a screening, I like to research who is in the film. Headlined on the roster was Carrie Coon, and her performance happens to be the most disappointing. For about 80% of the film Coon has no screen time. Then, suddenly she shows up in the climax of the film, as an FBI agent. Rather than giving her anything meaningful to do or say, this amazing actress is subjected to an afterthought of a role. It could be that hers is a sample size of what we’d get if a Kin 2 were to be made, but for the time being it’s not a role deserving of a big name like Carrie Coon. Furthermore, the legendary Dennis Quaid resigns himself to being an angrier, hardened version of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben. His job is only to guide Eli through the first act before giving way to the rest of the plot. I thought he played his role well, but once again seemed lesser for Quaid.
All that being said, there are still some quality performances from two notable Hollywood talents, specifically James Franco and Zoe Kravitz. For Franco, he was able to have fun in by playing a ruthless thug in Balik. The role of Balik allowed Franco to show his carnal side, which is a side we’ve rarely seen. In Kin, he only cared about himself and his brothers. When he was crossed, he went to the ends of the Earth for his revenge, causing all kinds of mischief.
Then there is Zoe Kravitz, who has really done a great job of making a name for herself in her short career. In Kin, she plays Milly a stripper with a heart of gold. No, I’m not being facetious, that’s just an accurate representation of her character. While that may sound plain jane, Milly is anything but, and it’s all because of Kravitz’s performance. I thought she was fun, flirty, and strangely motherly in a film that lacked that mother figure. My initial fears were that she would be an unnecessary figure. Instead, Kravitz carved out a place for herself with a character I’d love to see in a possible sequel.
The last actors that must be mentioned are Myles Truitt and Jack Reynor. I thought Truitt did a nice job in his cinematic debut. He showed excellent range in the way he portrayed a character that felt like he didn’t belong to fear of the unknown then the joys of brotherly bonding, etc. There were some obvious over-acting moments, but those are to be expected. His biggest flaw was a lack of the sadness reaction. There is a moment when he learns the truth about what has been kept from him. His reaction in the moment was perfect, and almost gut-wrenching. However, he never had the breakdown I thought for sure was coming. Instead, he seemed to move on from the revelation somewhat quickly. All that being said, I do believe he delivered a solid debut performance.
Jack Reynor, on the other hand, delivered a brilliant career-defining performance. His role as Jimmy was a main player in the story, and Reynor was stellar. He played a rebellious son that gets into trouble, as the previous section suggests. The growth we see out of him, throughout the film, is what truly makes his role memorable. You really felt for this young man and what he was going through, the guilt of what he had set in motion. He was a coward, that was just trying to find peace in a hard world. Suddenly, he’s having to learn what it’s like to be a big brother, a provider, all while he’s dealing with heart-wrenching guilt. It’s an A performance by Reynor.
Potential to Be a Terminator-Like Series, if Given the Chance
The biggest obstacle Kin is facing is lack of awareness. When I told people I was seeing this film, either they had no idea what movie I was talking about or had just seen a preview and still had no idea what was going on. Poor marketing can ruin a movie, but I really hope Kin is the exception to that rule.
What the Baker bros. Have put together is something truly original and special. It’s emotional, exciting, fun, and intriguing, with an ending you won’t see coming. All things we crave for as moviegoers. As an added bonus, the finale instantly reminded me of Terminator and caused an epiphone as to what this franchise could be, if given a sequel. I just hope Lionsgate moves forward with it, as they’ve been needing a new franchise since the Hunger Games finished. If given the greenlight and the Bakers are allowed to flesh out this world they’ve built, we could have an incredible series on our hands.
Money speaks, though, so selfishly I hope they make whatever goal they’re aiming for, because I want to see a sequel. Good or bad, I’m invested in this world and I want to see more of it. Hopefully you, your friends, and your family are willing to shell out the money to see this happen, though, with the lack awareness the odds are not in their favor.