The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:


All in the Family

James Franco
James Franco
Summit Entertainment
 102 Minutes
Directed by: Jonathan Baker, Josh Baker
Starring: Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, James Franco  

The new movie with the deceptively simple title of Kin seems like two entirely different films shoehorned together into an imperfectly fitting 100-minute framework. The first is a gonzo syfy action film featuring an introverted 14-year-old boy who finds a big-ass gun from outer space that can blast people to bits and goes on the road with his screw-up, ex-con older brother. The second is a coming-of-age drama featuring an introverted 14-year-old boy trying to become a decent person under the tutelage of a stern but loving father, despite the influence of his screw-up, ex-con older brother. As you might guess, Eli, the boy (newcomer Myles Truitt), and Jimmy, the brother (Jack Reynor), are the same characters in each “film,” but the first film is a lot more fun to watch than the second.


Eli is the adopted son of contractor Hal Solinski (Dennis Quaid), who wants to ensure that the boy will not end up like Hal’s natural son, Jimmy, who is just getting out of prison. However, Eli is already getting in trouble by fighting in school and stealing copper tubing from abandoned buildings. Jimmy is in worse trouble, having agreed to pay local mobster Taylor Balik (James Franco) thousands in protection money to keep from getting killed in prison. When Hal refuses to give Jimmy any money, the ex-con instead helps Taylor steal the money from Hal’s safe at a construction site.


Unfortunately for everyone involved, Hal has discovered Eli’s copper theft and is taking the boy to return the stolen copper. When Hal stops at his construction trailer, he stumbles into the robbery in progress, and, in the resulting scuffle, both Hal and Taylor’s brother are killed. Jimmy grabs the stolen money and heads on the road with Eli, who was in his father’s truck and is unaware of what happened. Jimmy, on the other hand, is unaware Eli has the aforementioned big-ass gun, which he found while hunting for copper in an abandoned building.


Once on the road, Jimmy tells Eli that Hal will meet them in Lake Tahoe for a vacation. Before they get to Tahoe, however, the pair have a run-in with the owner of a strip club where Jimmy takes his brother for educational purposes. The run-in turns out poorly for Jimmy, who gets beaten up by the club’s bouncers until Eli pulls out the gun and blasts a pool table to bits. The pair resume their road trip, now accompanied by Milly (Zoe Kravitz), a club stripper who doesn’t want to face her boss’s predictable wrath. Taylor and his goons are also headed to Tahoe, having figured out where Jimmy and Eli will be, based on a voicemail message Taylor intercepted from Eli to his dead father.


Kin was written and directed by brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker, who expanded it from an acclaimed short film they made a few years previously. Going further back, the brothers may have been inspired by a cheesy 1970’s film called Laserblast, about a similarly troubled teen who finds a big-ass alien gun from outer space and winds up transforming into a lizard monster for his efforts. Laserblast regularly shows up on worst all-time film lists, with good reason, but the Baker brothers obviously saw the potential and have a lot of fun with it here.


While Truitt plays his part sincerely, everyone else who comes in contact with the gun overplays their roles to the hilt. Leading the way in this regard is James Franco, who has lots of fun playing yet another sadistically goofball, tattooed psycho here. Raynor may not be as familiar a face as is Franco, but when he acts the part of the drunken screw-up, as in the clip below,


Taken as a campy action film, Kin is lots of fun, including a wildly over-the-top finale in which Taylor and his gang try to storm the police station where Jimmy and Eli are being held, in a sequence that brings back memories of The Terminator. The Baker brothers do resort to a contrived ending with a very recognizable actor in a cameo appearance that seems to exist for the sole purpose of setting up a sequel, but that doesn’t completely destroy the vibe the rest of the movie has established by then.


The filmmakers were not, however, content to merely make a goofy lark highlighted by James Franco at his most outrageous; instead, they added far too many serious elements that never quite fit in with the syfy action. The entire film is a morality play, pitched nearly on the level of an afterschool special, about what sort of man Eli should become. To be fair, lots of movies take on issues like that, and Kin includes a somewhat unusual complication in that Eli is black while almost all the other characters in the movie, including the possible bad influences on him, are white. However, I would venture to guess that none of these other films supply their troubled teenager with a portable cannon that can vaporize some or all of those bad influences.


The serious portions of Kin work somewhat better than one might think because of the performance by Myles Truitt, who is completely convincing, and the chemistry he shares with his onscreen brother. The role of Jimmy is a mess as written, shifting between a guy who is dumb enough to fling bad insults at a sadistic bar owner surrounded by several extremely large bouncers and a guy who displays feelings towards his brother that bring to mind the relationship between Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.


Overall, there’s a good bit to like in Kin, although the script could have used another draft or two to make the separate plot strands work. And I was quite impressed by Myles Truitt, who made a difficult role work in both the silly and serious parts of the movie. However, when I’m on the fence about a movie, I always look at the ending, which is often paramount in leaving an audience’s final impression of a film. Here, the ending is at best a highly convenient way for the writers to extricate themselves from a plot trap they created and at worst a lead-in to a sequel which, as a result of this movie’s low box office results, will almost certainly never occur. There are certainly worse films than Kin, especially in dead periods of the year like the Labor Day weekend, and it’s likely a better choice that some of what’s coming in September. Plus, you have to give the movie credit for a considerable degree of originality. But it just misses on a chance to be memorable, not for overall quality, but as a cult standout. Like some of your own kinfolk, this movie proves tolerable but eventually wears a bit thin.

In this scene, Myles Truitt tests his new extraterrestrial weapon.

Read other reviews of Kin: 

Kin (2018) on IMDb