There are movies that try too hard. You know, those movies that think they are more important than they are but sloppy writing and horrid acting and directing show the true ridiculousness of their plot. There are also movies that don’t try hard enough. You know, the ones that settle for being whatever they need to be when it’s obvious that a more creative and ballsy filmmaker could have taken things to a whole new level. Then there are those rare movies that fall in between those two extremes, and not in a good way. That brings me to “Kin”, an odd science fiction film that at times tries too hard and at other times doesn’t even try at all. The premise is unique, and it has the stamp of approval from some credible producers, like David Gross and Shawn Levy. However, the film has been torn apart by critics and so I reluctantly took a chance and viewed the film myself. So here it is, my review of “Kin”.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
“Kin” focuses on Elijah Solinski (Myles Truitt), a young black kid who is the adopted son of Hal (Dennis Quaid), a single father whose wife died prior to the events of the film and who tries to instill a sense of responsibility in his children. Elijah spends his afternoons scrapping, looking through abandoned buildings to find copper and other good. One day he comes along a strange rectangular device that responds to his touch and opens up to become a gun clearly not of Earth. Elijah’s step-brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) comes home after a stint in prison and admits to his father that he needs money in order to pay off a crime lord named Taylor Balik (James Franko) who provided him protection in jail. Things go wrong when Hal attempts to stop Jimmy from stealing money to pay his debt and Jimmy is forced to flee with Elijah to escape Taylor and his goons. While on the run the two come across a stripper named Milly (Zoë Kravitz) who joins them in their journey. The trio soon learn the capabilities of Elijah’s discovery while they work to avoid Taylor’s gang and a pair of otherworldly beings hunt them down to retrieve the weapon.
There’s not a whole lot I have to say here so I’m going to keep it pretty brief. The performances are…not good. Almost nobody in this movie feels invested at all. Everyone it either overdoing it or not doing enough, which turns out to be a theme for this entire project really. Young star Myles Truitt honestly doesn’t feel like he really knows what to do the entire time. I’m not saying he’s untalented but, in this role, he just has no direction. He’s just kind of there until he has to hold the big gun and do something sort-of badass. On the other hand Jack Reynor who plays Elijah’s stepbrother Jimmy and is know more for his involvement in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is completely over the top. He tries WAY too hard to present us with a brother that has questionable ethics and personality. There’s nothing about these two brothers that makes either of them likable. One’s boring and the other one is annoying and presented as so much of a loser it’s hard to justify liking him in any way. Not to mention there’s absolutely NO chemistry between Truitt and Reynor on screen. Even the very capable Zoë Kravitz can’t save this movie. She’s positioned in the story to act as a moral compass for the duo but all she ends up being is a side character, forced love interest, and bland token female companion. Even then Kravitz’s performance is much better than either of the on-screen brothers combined.
The only real redeemable performances for me were Dennis Quaid, who gets very little screen time, and James Franco, who despite his sexual misconduct allegations, is still worthy of credit as a legitimate performer. Quaid plays the fatherly role perfectly and there’s a genuine frustration over his sons’ situations that I wish we got to see more of. It might have made for a much better story, one that would have been a lot easier to invest in. Franco absolutely steals the show as an enthusiastic crime lord who gets by far some of the best lines and moments in the movie. I mean when an actor can literally pee on the floor and quip about it and make that the best scene in your movie you either have a really big problem with the screenplay or Franco is just that much more charismatic than the rest of the cast. I know there’s a lot of people who don’t like him right now and if the accusations against him are, in fact, true I could never condone it, but from a completely unbiased perspective just looking at Franco as a performer it was nice to see him breath even an ounce of life into a project that, for all intents and purposes, is beneath his level of talent.
Alright so I know I’m being hard on this movie, and it deserves it, but there are VERY few things worth pointing out that were kind of cool. I give the filmmakers credit for their attention to detail with the film’s main weapon. It’s odd to see a movie focus so heavily on one single gun, but I’ve seen “The Mexican” so the idea wasn’t foreign to me. Anyways the weapon is nicely designed, and the special effects used to show its power and present the visuals for its blasts are pretty neat so see. The problem is the gun isn’t used nearly enough in the movie. Now I’m not saying I wanted a film where a black kid shoots people up all the time with an alien weapon, but you put this incredible source of firepower in front of us and then do barely anything with it. I’ll get to more about why this is a problem later, I don’t want to digress from the positives just yet. Anyways the gun is cool and there were some neat special effects incorporated into the movie.
The finale for me is by far the best part of this movie when we see James Franco’s character take on police officers to get to the brothers which forces Elijah to literally break out the big gun. It’s an action set piece that to me shows just how much cooler a more focused movie surrounding a pair of brothers with an incredible weapon could have been. It also helps keep the movie relatively tasteful because there could have been a lot of controversial ways to utilize the weapon, especially in the hands of a black kid. Him using it to defend police…now that actually sounds like there could be some social commentary hidden in their somewhere. Too bad the film as a whole is not smart enough to utilize that approach. There’s some actual redeeming quality in the finale and there’s even a pretty neat twist involving a cameo from Michael B. Jordan that ties everything up. So, while the rest of the movie is pretty bland at least the end offers something in the way of substance.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
In the end the bulk of this movie was just so unwatchable for me. “Kin” is incredibly boring, unfocused, and lacks any semblance of direction. At only around an hour and a half, much of this feels like glorified filler that goes absolutely nowhere and offers little payoff for anyone willing to sit through this slog. I checked out about half an hour into the movie. I mean I was still paying attention but there was never anything to entice me to want to see what comes next. I just wanted it to be done and while many movies have slow moments “Kin” has POINTLESS moments where no real action is set up, convoluted conflicts are put into play and because of a lack of chemistry between its stars we don’t even get any truly human revelations or emotional weight. The story feels drawn out, it’s boring, and I have no interest in watching it again or seeing where it’s interesting finale will take us should anyone have the gall to green-light a sequel.
It doesn’t help that the one thing the previews used to draw audiences in, the alien weapon, is literally nothing more than a deus ex machina. For those of you who don’t know what that is it’s a term basically used to describe an improbable solution to an impossible situation or problem, like something that is thrown into the story for no reason other than to push fate in the right direction. The alien gun is exactly that, a tool thrown into the story to act as nothing more than a way to get the brothers out of their predicaments. This weapon could have easily been used as a neat allegory for gun violence, but “Kin” almost preaches the exact opposite, the benefits of using a weapons to solve your problems. There’s NEVER a moment where either of the brothers have second guesses over turning to the violent solution to resolve something. They even use it to hold up card players to retrieve their lost money…THEY ROB PEOPLE WITH AN ALIEN GUN!!!! How are we supposed to like these people? How are we supposed to see anything redeemable about them? Again, the filmmakers miss a moment of potential social commentary because this could have been an opportunity to show that these brothers are no better than the criminals, but sometimes bad acts are justified. Hell, even Elijah and his father preach that sometimes doing the right thing isn’t the easy thing. But there’s no conviction to this concept at all. It’s just kind of thrown in there.
To top is all off “Kin’s” tone is all over the place. It’s a dry, emotionless film that has little to no substance, yet it tries to balance things out with awkward moments of levity and even mortality that lack any real weight to them at all. In my opinion “Kin” is a confused film. I don’t think the filmmakers knew what they wanted it to be, I don’t think the writers knew what they wanted it to be, and I certainly don’t believe the actors knew what it needed to be. The result is a project that always feels confused. Is it science fiction or coming or age drama? Is it supposed to be lighthearted or incredibly deep? Is it supposed to be a cool gun touting film or something that adds commentary about gun violence? It ends up actually trying to be all of these and none of these at the same time. Like I said, confusing right! I don’t believe for a second anyone truly knew what kind of movie they wanted to make and thus we get a final product that never really tries to be anything interesting while also trying too hard to be something its not if that makes any sense at all.
“Kin” is a train wreck. It’s one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in 2018 with an unfocused story, a cast that lacks commitment to whatever it had to offer and sports a major identity crisis. Its redeemable qualities, including the epic finale and a few select performances, aren’t near enough to make it worth your time. There’s just not enough here. “Kin” could have challenged many concepts on a much deeper level, and hell the final twist at the end even speaks to the possibilities that there could be a great story hidden behind the curtain, but in the end it’s not a good science fiction film, it’s an unfocused coming-of-age tale that lacks any form of sincerity. Not to mention it’s not at all fun or amusing to view to the point where I was ready to leave the theater by the end of the second act and just call it a day. I wouldn’t recommend it and I have no urge or desire to see where it may go from here SHOULD it be lucky enough to earn the follow-up in inevitably teases in its closing moments.