“Kin” is the feature length directorial debut of Josh and Jonathan Baker, two Australian brothers that have spent the first half of the decade cutting their teeth as filmmakers on short films. In their first feature length theatrical release, telling the story of a young boy on a road trip with his estranged ex-convict older brother on the run from a sleazy but tight knit group of gangbangers led by James Franco, the Baker brothers manage to produce a love letter to late 70s and 80s blockbuster science fiction that’s effectively sincere even if it’s a tad rough around the edge’s for its own good.
The largest prevailing flaw of “Kin” is that it bites off far more than it can chew in a manner all too recognizable as growing pains from first time storytellers of a format. In an admirable effort to make every element at play feel appropriately fleshed out, the film unfortunately gets bogged down with a lot of moving parts.
Dennis Quaid’s role as the brothers’ father feels almost perfunctory as his involvement comes to a head without having a standout powerful moment. Franco gets to inject a lot of personality into the antagonist of the film with an almost unexpectedly touching and emotional sequence that perfectly reinforces the thematic notions of family and its profound impact on us that kind of gets sidelined by his almost cartoonish psychopathic personality that’s on full display by the time of the climax.
There are some story beats that get a little bit overemphasized and a lot of these balancing issues come to a head in the climax, which dumps a lot of exposition regarding the device that serves as its plot’s hook that comes so far out of left field, I almost feel inclined to give credit for having the audacity to drop it in less than five minutes out from the end credits, despite almost working on me personally in a metatextual sense upon the revelation of a certain cameo that needs to be seen to be believed.
“Kin’s” structural components are just a little too scattershot to make its story land with the poignancy that it’s clearly trying its damndest to achieve. Where it does work however, is instilling a sense of heart within the project that carries it in all the right ways to working decently enough. The film is littered with a plethora of subtle Easter eggs that are brilliantly woven into the filmmaking, which is at its strongest when focused firmly on the coming of age narrative.
Jack Reynor and Myles Truitt really bring it, creating a realistic bond between estranged relatives that’s authentically heartwarming in that sense of mutual love and camaraderie that most brothers seek without shying away from the awkwardness brought about by year’s apart, a teenager in the midst of puberty, and the unwavering transparency that no matter how much Reynor wants to make up for his past, his undeniably toxic influence is probably best kept away from his brother. Reynor knocks his role out of the park with equal parts, charisma, impulsive self-destructiveness, and just a tinge of self awareness that makes his tragedy very real, but Truitt manages to hold his own in a feature film debut that could be the beginning of a promising career.
The performances ,and the way in which they’re highlighted, go a long way towards transcending a lot of “Kin’s” narrative problems, from the aforementioned nuance granted by Franco, to Quaid making every second count to building a real presence, even if the screenplay would have benefited from a bit of punch up. As a result, the adventure manages to hold its own rather decently until the weapon in question gets to show off and the results end up more satisfying than anticipated. Its mere presence before being utilized to lethal effect is pretty neat to take in but once it gets put to use, the film almost becomes a glorious PG-13 version of the climax of “District 9.”
“Kin” is overall a quaint little feature that really rides on charm to get by but there are far more movies out right now with less competence and heart too eager to make a quick buck on curiosity attracted by flash and bang. The film is more of a throwback to an era where going to the theater meant less watching the fifth reboot of a commercially overexposed property with an invasive marketing campaign and more wondering what you’re going to find at the cinema on a Saturday afternoon to be left with a pleasant surprise.
I don’t know if I can recommend rushing out to see “Kin” in a hurry but if you catch it, you’ll probably be glad that you did.
3 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.