Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Kin is part road trip drama, part coming of age story and part science fiction action movie. Conceptually, it is intriguing, but the parts coexist so uneasily that it feels like a bunch of unrelated ideas fighting each other for screen time. One of those threads would have been fine. So many subplots slammed together in 97 minutes (not including the end credits) becomes overkill and hurts all of them. I enjoyed individual moments but, overall, it is kind of a mess.
The protagonist is Eli, a fourteen year-old being raised by his adoptive father, Hal. One day, Hal’s biological son, Jimmy, returns home from jail. He owes money to a dangerous criminal, Taylor, which causes him to grab Eli and go on the run. They flee cross-country with Taylor in pursuit, giving the brothers a chance to bond for the first time. Also, Eli brings along an alien ray-gun he found in a vacant lot. That aspect of the film seems especially out of place, even though it is the thing that makes it different and is likely the reason it has been made.
Kin jumps back and forth so often from drama to thriller, but the screenplay never made its characters interesting enough for any of it to matter (the story has been expanded from the short film Bag Man by its directors, Jonathan and Josh Baker). Eli, though he is the audience’s way into this world, is essentially just a plot device. His feelings are explored only when they are necessary for moving the action forward. Jack Reynor is very charismatic, but his Jimmy is an unlikable cliché. I think Kin is partially intended to be about his road to redemption. In order for that to work, the character would have to be self-aware enough to understand why he needs to be redeemed.
As their father, Dennis Quaid has a couple of powerful speeches, but he only has a few scenes. Taylor, a psychopath running a protection racket, is portrayed by a bizarrely restrained James Franco. This is the type of villain who should be all tics. In an odd choice, this is the rare time Franco plays a role completely straight.
The only character I had any interest in was Milly, a stripper the boys meet on the road. She is given little motivation for her decisions, however Zoë Kravitz is so likable that I started to care the tiniest bit when she was onscreen. There are some nice, quiet, moments between her and the brothers. Briefly, Kin felt like it was actually about something. Sadly, that did not last long because Daniel Casey’s screenplay has absolutely no time for depth.
Kin gives the impression of being a film its creators hoped they could turn into a franchise. It plays like the prologue to a larger story. I would be lying if I said there was enough here to make me desire a sequel. The Bakers threw every plot element they could think of into this, but neglected important things such as structure, character and drama. This project probably had a very impressive pitch. The final result comes off like that pitch was stretched out using mad libs.
2 out of 5
Myles Truitt as Eli Solinski
Jack Reynor as Jimmy Solinski
James Franco as Taylor Balik
Dennis Quaid as Hal Solinski
Zoë Kravitz as Milly
Directed by Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker
Screenplay by Daniel Casey