Myles Truitt, Jack Traynor, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Kravitz, James Franco
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……a lo-fi character-driven crime drama with just a hint of science fiction…
Using their 2014 short Bag Man as a jumping-off point, Australian filmmaking duo Jonathan and Josh Baker’s (twins – there’s a lot of that around at the moment) Kin spices up a lo-fi character-driven crime drama by injecting just a hint of science fiction into the proceedings – with mixed but interesting results.
Setting its scene in the rundown environs of economically devastated Detroit, Kin introduces us to teenage Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt) and his adopted father, construction boss Hal (Dennis Quaid), whose lives are disrupted by the return of Hal’s older son Jimmy (Jack Reynor), fresh out of prison and in debt to local crimes bosses Taylor (James Franco) and Dutch (Gavin Fox) Balik. After a horribly botched robbery, Jimmy finds himself on the run with Eli in tow and a vengeful Taylor in hot pursuit.
The fantastical intrudes into this fairly realistic narrative in the form of a high tech energy rifle that Eli has found in an abandoned industrial site – alongside the body of the armoured being who carried it. Its origins are kept obscure – but we do know that figures similar to the weapon’s original wielder are tracking it down.
And yet, for the most part Kin is a road movie shaded with crime drama elements, of the kind we saw a lot of in the ’90s after Tarantino hit big. Brash, rash Jimmy and thoughtful, observant Eli bicker and bond, joined by stripper Milly (Zoë Kravitz), who they encounter when Jimmy’s mouth gets him into trouble at a sleazy honky tonk. Occasionally the laser gun gets employed to spectacular effect during a mini crime spree, but generally we’re in familiar territory, made enjoyable by the strong performances by Truitt, Raynor, and Kravitz.
For all that, the Baker brothers wear their genre influences on their sleeves – James Cameron gets a nod more than once, the anime series Bubblegum Crisis appears on a background television, and the wide open middle-American spaces the film largely takes place in are reminiscent of Rian Johnson’s Looper, which was set in Kansas City and its cornfield surrounds. There’s a background level of strangeness, of weird stuff happening just below the range of notice of the average Joe, and that thrill of being allowed ingress into a hidden world is a delicious one.
Still, when Kin‘s genre elements take the foreground in the third act, it’s a little underwhelming – in the main because so many questions are left unanswered, clearly to set us up for a sequel or franchise that the preceding story doesn’t quite earn. It’s a shame – if it managed to stick the landing, Kin would have been a neat, satisfying one and done sci-fi drama. As it stands, it’s the opening movement of a larger saga and, while that might be interesting if and when it arrives, the film as it stands doesn’t exactly leave the viewer champing at the bit for more.