How exciting would it be to go on a cross-country road trip with your fresh out of prison older brother, a stripper, $60,000 in stolen cash, and an alien ray gun, with angry deadly goons and two armed futuristic soldiers hot on your trail? I don’t know, but the movie Kin surely makes it look like one hell of a time.
The story centers around Eli Salanis (Myles Truitt) a 14-year-old African-American from Detroit adopted by white parents. With his adopted mother being recently deceased, and his older adopted brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), an ex-convict fresh off a six-year bid, it’s clear things aren’t all fine and dandy with Eli.
While scrapping for metal, Eli comes across a mysterious weapon with powers unknown, which he eventually brings home. The catalyst of the story comes when Jimmy returns home and is found $60,000 in debt to a local crime boss named Taylor (James Franco). I must say this character is exactly what I would expect a crime boss played by Franco to be like. Well-acted enough to be taken seriously but still having an air of frivolity and humor to him. He’s a joy to watch in this movie, as per usual.
When their father, Hal Solinski, (Dennis Quaid) finds Jimmy, Taylor and his crew robbing a safe from his office things get messy. Like the scene execution which should have been milked for more drama and suspense but I digress. The scene ends with Hal dead as well as Taylor’s brother. This meaning Jimmy and Eli have to get the hell out of town before Taylor finds them and exacts revenge. Eli, obviously, takes the gun with him. So now they have vengeful goons and two mysterious black-clad alien motorcyclists in search of the gun chasing them down.
Jimmy tricks his younger brother into thinking they’re going on a road trip and that their dad will meet up with them in a week or so. What a horrible thing to do right? Although Kin lacks strong characters, albeit easy, I must say job well done characterizing Jimmy as a criminal. Don’t get me wrong he’s not evil, he wants to do good. However, Jimmy’s habits of excessive alcohol consumption, deception, thievery, poor decision-making and placing his loved ones in harm’s way are all clearly indicative of a criminal personality.
Unfortunately, this is just about the only character facet that scriptwriter Daniel Casey gets right in this movie. More on that later.
Back to the plot. With Eli eventually going to discover the truth, it becomes engaging seeing how long Jimmy can and will keep up his lie. Eli leaves a voicemail to their dad at one point to check in. This provides Taylor, who has taken the phone of their deceased father, the information he needs to find them. Before moving forward I must ask what the hell is going on with all the phones in this movie? The film is set in present day but every single phone looks like it’s borrowed from 2005. Is it just a Midwesterner thing that everyone from there has 15-year-old phones? Did whoever’s in charge of the budget for Kin spend too much on the explosions that they couldn’t afford to use phones from this decade? I mean it’s not relevant to the overall story but as a millennial, I had to point out this bizarre detail.
Moving on, throughout the movie the audience is made to feel bad for Eli because of how often Jimmy places him in compromising situations. One of them being a strip club, where Jimmy gets into a tussle, allowing Eli to show off his shiny new destructive toy. They manage to leave with a female companion, Milly, (Zoe Kravitz) but not with the $60,000 bag of money. Eli is again put in a compromising situation as Jimmy and Milly recruit him and his ray gun to pull off a card game heist in order to recoup on the losses.
Eventually, their misadventures lead up to a showdown in a local Nevada police station where the goons, aliens, police and main characters all come together. When its all said and done Kin stacks up a worrisome list of underdeveloped elements including character depth and backstory, an ending that is related to the rest of the story, and the relationship between Eli and Jimmy. (I can’t help but think what the hell was the purpose of having Milly the stripper in this story? She provided nothing.)
Kin presents so much opportunity for gripping drama and an endearing kinship element but ultimately fails to deliver either. Why is there only ONE brief scene of the two brothers bonding? Why is Milly’s character so underdeveloped and shamefully underutilized? These glaring flaws were only noticed via hindsight though. The questions of: how is Eli going to figure out Jimmy’s lie, what’s going to happen to them and what’s the deal with these aliens, were all enough to keep me interested in the movie throughout.
However, when looking back at the movie critically, it’s easy to spot areas where the screenwriter, director and actors fail.
Side-note: I added actors into that last list because as adorable as Myles Truitt may be his performance was underwhelming as he failed to deliver in crucial scenes.
Considering you the reader are most likely not a movie critic, then I’d assume you’d find Kin to be decently entertaining and engaging despite its flaws. I did.