The sci-fi film ‘Kin’ has a potentially interesting central relationship between two brothers, but how it positions a gun as something that gives a boy confidence is problematic.
Kernel Rating: 2 (2 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 102 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. It is slightly shocking this movie is rated PG-13 because of how many people are killed in callous ways, such as police officers being tortured and shot in the head, people being destroyed into dust, and someone who is shot in the neck. Characters also deal and do drugs, drink alcohol, and sell guns; there is cursing and some sexist, lewd, and racist language and jokes; a scene takes place in a strip club with scantily clad women; and there is prevailing theme throughout the film in which a boy’s relationship with his gun gives him confidence, which is a message that seems to condone the various violence in the movie.
By Roxana Hadadi
Somewhere within its various subplots about futuristic soldiers, working-class frustrations, and drug-dealing racists, amid a stripper character with a heart of gold, a young teen attempting to find his identity, and an FBI agent curious about the origins of a mysterious weapon, there is an interesting sci-fi premise struggling to get out of “Kin.”
The film about a boy who finds a strange gun and develops a connection with it has various problematic elements that seem a little inexplicable for a PG-13 film geared toward teenagers. Of course, there are so many PG-13 films with a variety of violence—in the Marvel and DC Comics films, we’ve come accustomed to watching entire cities, countries, and worlds destroyed—but there is something specifically unsettling to how “Kin” has its primary character rely on his bond with a destructive weapon to build his confidence.
Once he starts using this gun, he connects with his estranged brother, he begins a friendship with a stripper on whom he has a crush, he has the strength to stand up to people threatening his family. Are those positive qualities only possible with the possession of a weapon? Unfortunately so, in the world built by “Kin.”
The film focuses on 14-year-old Elijah (Myles Truitt), who lives with his widowed father Hal (Dennis Quaid) in Detroit; Hal is struggling to raise Elijah alone after his wife’s death, and things become more complicated when Hal’s biological son Jimmy (Jack Reynor) is released from prison after serving six years for theft and a variety of other felonies.
Jimmy and Hal butt heads immediately, and Hal, worried that Jimmy will be a negative influence on Elijah, warns his younger son to steer clear. But what he doesn’t know is that Elijah has already got himself into a mysterious situation on his own, having stumbled into an abandoned building full of the dead bodies of futuristic-looking soldiers. Curious about their weapons, Elijah took one of their guns—and when Jimmy suggests the two brothers go on a road trip to escape the clutches of a drug and guns dealer (James Franco) to whom Jimmy owes money, Elijah brings the gun along.
Elijah and Jimmy are hiding their own secrets, but their shared trip brings them closer together, even as they’re pursued by that crime lord and soldiers dressed like the corpses Elijah saw, and connects them with stripper Milly (Zoë Kravitz), a young woman to whom both brothers are attracted. And so “Kin” jumps between various subplots, failing to keep a consistent tone as the movie tries to build meaningful relationships between Elijah and Jimmy and Elijah and Milly while also using Franco’s drug-dealer character and the futuristic soldiers for maximum violence.
Directors Jonathan and Josh Baker, overseeing this full-length version of their short film “Bag Man,” have a good eye for visual effects; there are some images here that hint at the potential of a sci-fi series, like the futuristic soldiers building portals to travel through that resemble rippling waves of water distorting our vision of reality. But the screenplay by Daniel Casey is inconsistent; on the one hand, he has Franco’s character joke about the awfulness of Mondays before killing a police officer, but then also has Elijah confess to Milly in an emotional scene that he’s not sure where he belongs. How does those characters and those scenes belong in the same movie?
Plus, there’s a final reveal that suggests this movie could have been better handled as a mini-series or TV show, and the realization that “Kin” spends nearly two hours setting up a narrative that never really kicks into gear (similar to this month’s earlier YA release, “The Darkest Minds”) is quite frustrating. If streamlined or reorganized, “Kin” could have held more potential as a sci-fi film, but with too many ideas, it is confusingly disjointed—and that relationship between its young protagonist and his reliance on his gun is undeniably troublesome, too.
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