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‘Kin’ buries intriguing setup in passivity, confusion

Written by: Nguyen Le, CC2K Staff Writer


Weary Hal (underused Dennis Quaid, committed through the growls) is a widower; his son Jimmy (Jack Reynor, who gives his all and is definitely more likable than his Transformers: Age of Extinction days) is an ex-con; his adopted son Elijah (Myles Truitt, poised in his debut) fights in school and scavenges in restricted zones. After a bike trip around town in a surprisingly elegant, if gloomily colored, sequence (thanks to the hushed score from Scottish’s post-rock band Mogwai and stylish capturing from Cop Car‘s Larkin Seiple) Elijah comes across a deadly bass clarinet case (read: ray gun) which only he can operate. Like the protagonist in Jonathan and Josh Baker’s sparsely constructed 2014 short Bag Man, Elijah makes the weapon his. What the 14-minute production won’t tell you though, is that Elijah’s actions leave prints for the gun’s rightful owners — two helmet-wearing commandos with a Ghost from Destiny — to track him down.

According to Kin‘s title and tagline, viewers should settle in for an ode to domestic camaraderie, to the fomenting of bonds in frayed environs…

But wait — this chase film is also a revenge-thriller. Uh-huh. Apparently, Jimmy is indebted to crime boss Taylor (James Franco, played with sleepy menace), whose boys protected his face from scars and bruises while inside. Taylor needs $60,000 for services rendered, and Jimmy doesn’t have that amount of cash.  Or he might, but for that to happen both sides must shed some blood. Unfortunately, it’s not as grave as it sounds upon watching, even though it should be. Nevertheless, irreversible damage has been done, and Jimmy finds himself with no choice but to escape from Detroit with his (futuristically armed) brother in tow. Since no one likes to be swindled, Taylor and his boys promptly catch up.

So wait. What is this film then? “A near-future mix of Road to Perdition and Good Time”? Not quite, considering the narrative brings no episode of personal growth. There’s still room for one more passenger, the dancer Milly (Zoe Kravitz, adequate despite her character adding little to the plot), however — and the mustering of adrenaline from being pursued is a sputtering act at best. How about “as an expansion of Bag Man”? How one wishes, but still no. It’s a definite missed opportunity that the feature-length script — also from the Bakers — doesn’t pick up where the short ends, or at the least perfect the many beats it brings up à la Neill Blomkamp with Alive in Joburg/District 9. Or, this being its worst sin, letting Jimmy (as opposed to Elijah) be the journey’s epicenter. Ultimately, Kin falls into the same hole as Bag Man. Kin lays out a lot of half-baked baggage and outright fog instead of the promised artful understatement.

That said, the visuals are a standout. There’s true beauty coming out of the ashes when the rays hit their targets, and clear effort went into the audio work meant to evoke the weapon’s might.There’s a definite unease when one’s brain, having absorbed all the gun-related news of late, realizes the person holding the trigger is just 14 years of age. A late-game twist aims to not only justify it, but further show off the digital wizardry. However, it remains a hard-to-embrace detail. How unfortunate for such distance to exist in a film (that according to its promos is) about kinship.

(P.S. Carrie Coon really needs a heart-to-heart with her agent after that cameo.)

Grade: D

Author: Nguyen Le, CC2K Staff Writer

I love film enough to pack up and fly across the Pacific to write about them. On a mission to add some Vietnamese, or Asian, presence in the film-writing world, first stop being Houston where I’m based. You bet I can make hella good ca phe sua da and equally so omelette. See my bylines at the The Cougar and Cooglife, University of Houston’s two publications, Houston Chronicle, Austin Chronicle, InSession Film and The Young Folks. Member of Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. Find me on Facebook (@nguyen.le.334) or Twitter (@nle318) — I’m all smiles at both places and so should you!

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3 thoughts on “‘Kin’ buries intriguing setup in passivity, confusion

    1. I thought exactly the same thing. It’s like the filmmakers were watching that one day and said, “Hey: what if we fixed the script and made this right?” I think it works — not only visually, but with the story, too. The ‘Kin’ title actually has mutliple references; anyone who remebers these sci-fi 1980-ish actioneers will see the “twist” coming a mile away, but I think it’s still executed well. Time will tell if audiences agree… and if it gets an intended sequel.

    2. A lot of my friends said the same thing! I thought this would have been great as a TV series, or at least a film where all of its elements are better connected. So, so much potential.

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