There is no greater weapon than family, except for maybe that awesome gun!
Kin is the feature directorial debut of Jonathan and Josh Baker, and it is based on their short film Bag Man. The film revolves around a young boy named Eli (Myles Truitt), who spends most of his time looting abandoned buildings, much to the dismay of his adoptive father, Hal (Dennis Quaid). Hal’s biological son Jimmy (Jack Reynor) has just been released from prison, and needs to pay back $60,000 to his criminal friend, Taylor (James Franco), something Hal refuses to do, given his frustration with his son’s carelessness. When Jimmy’s attempt to get the money goes wrong and ends with his father being murdered, Jimmy takes Eli and goes on the run to avoid Taylor and his gang. Little does Jimmy know, though, that Eli has brought along a secret weapon; a large futuristic gun that he found during one of his scavenger hunts, and it holds even more secrets to be discovered.
It is admittedly nice to see another unique take on westerns, as we recently saw in Hell or High Water, Wind River, and Logan. The filmmakers for Kin made a daring and successful choice in using sci-fi to give the story a sharper edge. The story itself is predictable, but there are a few pleasant surprises along the way that help keep it interesting. Most of the intrigue comes from the mystery surrounding the weapon, and two soldiers, who look like Daft Punk cos-players, that chase the brothers. It makes me wish that Daft Punk did the soundtrack for this film.
The short films that the Baker Brothers have made in the past are mainly special effects showcases with simple storylines. On a visual level, the brothers made a successful transition to features films, because each setting in Kin feels distinct and contains an interesting blend of the past, present, and future. Even the appearance of the Terminator 2 arcade gun game in one scene is a bit of a sly addition to the film’s production. Those arcade guns, though, have nothing on the gun that Eli possesses. Even when set at the lowest level, the gun has enough power to blow a hole in the wall, and in terms of visuals, it is stunning to look at!
However, it is truly the acting, not the special effects, that carries the story. Myles Truitt is great as Eli, whose character is attempting to find his true place in the world. Jack Reynor does well in his role as an irresponsible young man who can’t grasp what it means to be an adult. His attitude, though, can become a bit grating at times, given the situations that he places Eli in. You would think that a young man seeing his father being murdered would be a bit more cautious with his decisions, rather than teaching his kid brother to drive doughnuts in their getaway truck. Luckily, another character they pick up along the way, a “stripper with a heart of gold” named Venus, is there to remind him of his shortcomings. Zoë Kravitz plays her, and once again, Kravitz delivers a powerful, yet smooth performance.
However, the best actor in this film, by far, is James Franco as Taylor. If there are any actors working these days who can make the most paper-thin antagonist delightful to watch, it would be Franco. There is a scene he shares with a desk receptionist that is somewhat reminiscent of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in Die Hard, a villain whom I consider one of the best portrayed in film. As Taylor, Franco acts like he is having the time of his life, and puts in so much charm whenever he is on screen, that I wanted the camera to stay on him. There is also a secret cameo in the film that I will not spoil, but when it is revealed, it transforms the film.
Kin is an above average sci-fi, thriller western from a directing duo that shows promise. Despite having a rather familiar storyline, there are enough good performances and surprising twists to keep the story flowing nicely. The ending will leave you wanting more, and if this movie becomes a success, that wish might come true!