Written and Directed by: Jonathan and Josh Baker (adapted from their short film)
Starring: Myles Truitt, Jack Reynor, Zoë Kravitz, James Franco, Dennis Quaid
Rated: PG-13 for gun violence and intense action, suggestive material, language, thematic elements and drinking
“Kin” opened without much fanfare, and no surprise – it’s the feature film debut of not only its star (Myles Truitt), but its writer-director team, Jonathan and Josh Baker as well. The product of these newcomers’ work is good, though, especially considering that they’re new to cineplex screens. This is a competent, solid film with a few things to say and a driving, focused plot.
The story follows 14-year-old Eli (Truitt) as his life is turned upside down – first by an encounter with a group of mysterious armored soldiers and then by his older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) coming home from prison. Thanks to the kind of thinking that probably landed Jimmy in jail, he and Eli wind up on the run, pursued by an angry gang of criminals and two of the mysterious soldiers.
The soldiers are after them because Eli took one of their guns, a strange and futuristic weapon that folds up into an unassuming box shape. The criminals, led by Tay (James Franco), are after them for multiple reasons, including the fact that Jimmy owes them a lot of money.
Eli doesn’t fit in anywhere. He’s adopted, Black, and his adoptive mother recently died. At home, his adoptive Dad (Dennis Quaid) is gruff and not terribly skilled at parenting. At school, he gets harassed about his mother’s death and his own lack of fitting in. Truitt brings all of this together into a portrayal of a fourteen year old who is a good kid, but struggling.
“Kin” uses a lot of familiar elements of the genre. Tay is a pretty standard gross psycho criminal type. A stripper with a heart of gold (Zoë Kravitz) helps our heroes out along the way. Jimmy is a pretty standard petty criminal who likes to have a good time and makes decisions in the moment rather than thinking about the consequences his actions might have. The Baker brothers draw solid performances out of everyone, though. Reynor manages to make Jimmy more than just a cardboard cutout, and Franco definitely seems to be having a good time in his role.
The addition of the futuristic weapon and soldiers to the standard crime drama also gives “Kin” a little something extra beyond its conventional storyline and characters. It keeps us guessing – who are those soldiers? Are they from the future, or aliens, or what?
If you’re looking for some straightforward entertainment, “Kin” will probably fit the bill. It’s not a great film by any means, but it’s a solid first attempt from a team that’s got a lot of potential.