Kin is a muddled heap of genres. A story so convoluted and contrived that its own ending means nothing even to itself. At its core, it is about family and the relationships we build and oh yeah a giant ray gun. Essentially Kin is a movie with two stories running parallel to each other; both bad.
The two stories collide at the end in such a way that changes nothing and achieves nothing. Kin wants to mix a coming of age film, with a dash of noir, topped off with a tasty science fiction sprinkles. But the script doesn’t allow them to mix.
Elijah (Myles Truitt) is a seemingly bright fourteen-year-old boy who seems to be having a rough time of it. When we first meet Elijah he is exploring old abandoned buildings, in search of copper wires and other scrap metal to sell. At one of, then he stumbles upon a decapitated corpse. Nearby a long smooth wide oblong object lays discarded.
He picks up the object and it whirs to life. It transforms into a block ray gun of sorts. He drops it and runs off, leaving the gun behind. Josh and Jonathan Baker seem at once obsessed with the gun while at times forgetting it even exists.
Hal (Dennis Quaid) is a single father and a construction foreman trying his best to raise Elijah. Upon returning home Hal informs Elijah that his older brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor) is out on parole. The fact that Elijah is black, while both Hal and Jimmy, are white is not in of itself odd. Eventually, we learn Elijah was adopted.
I mention Elijah’s blackness and his adoption because the film goes out of its way to focus on both. When Jimmy goes to meet Taylor (James Franco), a burgeoning local crime lord, Taylor remarks on this too. “Oh yeah, you’re the guy with the colored brother.” Elijah’s blackness is not a reoccurring theme though. Yet, the Baker brothers punctuate Kin with similar moments but we’re never quite sure why.
Franco’s Taylor is meant to be menacing but he and the Baker brothers never find the right balance. His Taylor is a petulant, scruffy, low key maniac. But Franco’s Taylor comes across more as a whiny petulant man-child. We’re left wondering why anyone is afraid of him, or for that matter, takes orders from him.
Jimmy’s homecoming is awkward and filled with stilted conversations. Long buried emotions erupt to the surface at the dinner table. For all their faults, I quite liked how Jonathan and Josh Baker shot the Solinski’s house. Most homes in the movies are nicely furnished and seem littered with spacious rooms so the camera and actors have plenty of room to move about.
But the Solinski’s is a mess of narrow hallways and cramped spaces. Elijah and Hal have to lean against the wall to let the other pass or wait at one end of the hallway. The Solinsky house is the one thing in all of Kin that approaches anything resembling realism.
After the dinner, Elijah sneaks back to the warehouse to get the gun. It seems drawn to him and he to it. A connection begins to form.
Jimmy owes Taylor $60,000, for keeping him safe in prison. I found myself guffawing when Jimmy pulls Hal aside and asks for a loan. “I just need $60,000.” Hal scoffs at the request and for a moment we begin to sympathize with him for having such an idiotic son. Jimmy pleads and says he knows Hal has the money, in a safe, at the construction site. Hal refuses, because, again, unlike Jimmy, he is not a raging imbecile.
The first half of the movie consists largely of Jimmy, trying to raise the money. At his wit’s end, Jimmy talks Taylor and his brother Dutch (Gavin Fox) into helping him rob his father’s construction office. Hal, of course, walks in on them, Taylor pulls a gun, they wrestle, Hal is killed; so is Dutch.
Jimmy takes off with Elijah cross country, unbeknownst to him with a nifty ray gun from another dimension in the bed of the pickup. A question that kept nagging at me all throughout Kin was did it have to be a ray gun? I ask because the fact that it is a ray gun has little to no effect on the story.
That is until the end. But even then when all is revealed it raises more questions than it answers and worse, has no bearing on anything that happened before. The science-fiction element feels unnecessary. It robs Kin of what little emotional weight it had with the Jimmy and Elijah story. At best it adds some cool special effects while at worst it retroactively makes everything we just saw pointless.
The disparate stories never really come together. Instead, they act like oil and water, constantly pulling us out of one story for the sake of another. Sometimes when you watch a movie a character will say or do something egregiously stupid, but not in a human way.
It’s that special brand of stupidity manufactured by screenwriters to make other characters appear smarter. Characters can make a bad decision and say stupid things and not lose our love or respect. But there is a special brand of stupid, a kind baked into the foundation of the script and oozes out every time someone says or does anything.
Midway into the movie, we see Jimmy and Elijah go into a strip club. Now, I’m not a prude but neither am I so naive to believe that there might exist a strip club that has lax admission rules. But I am not as dumb, as the movie would have me be, as to think any strip club would risk being caught with a minor on its premises. Much less have its dancers gathered around him cooing and chatting as Jimmy looks and drinks.
Jimmy gives Elijah a wad of cash. “This is for the girl you like.” Almost on cue, Milly (Zoe Kravitz) comes onstage and begins to dance. Seeing the boy she doesn’t stop or even protest. Yet, when Jimmy tries to get onstage, bouncers appear and all but tackle him. In an odd way, I’m more curious about how this establishment even runs and what rules they arbitrarily follow then almost all of the half-baked ideas laden in Kin.
Kravitz plays the time-honored Hollywood tradition of the stripper with the heart of gold. Granted she eventually helps Jimmy rob a poker game run by her old boss. Luckily for Milly and Jimmy, they have this nifty ray gun.
If none of this makes any real sense, try watching it. On second thought, don’t. The Baker brothers have wasted the likes of Quaid, Kravitz, and Truitt for an empty-headed, gutless, made for television movie. Kin has a drab colorless feeling throughout, with a few rare scenes involving neon lights. At one point Jimmy teaches Elijah how to do donuts in the hotel parking lot.
Shot in slow motion as the music swells, we’re meant to feel as if the brothers are bonding. All well and good, except at this time Jimmy has yet to tell Elijah, Hal is dead, nor has he told him that Taylor is hot on their heels. The problem is there’s too much going on that it overlaps with each other. The family moments seem cheap because the melodrama that underlies them is nonsensical and laughable. The science-fiction elements only highlight how confused and stilted the structure is.
Kin is dumb, dumb, dumb. I could forgive it for its stupidity if it weren’t so stultifyingly dull to boot. It is the type of movie that makes you aware of how valuable our time on this earth is while also making your blood boil for daring to waste it so.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate