Words that flooded my mind as the lights came up following my screening of “Kin:” Neat. Inventive. Original. Surprising. And, most of all…Cool!
I watch a lot of movies and, as much as I’m in love with them, I get a little tired and a little cynical and find that even the best movies can fall prey to the various Hollywood formulas. GodDAMN is it a turn on when a movie not only offers up a surprise but exceeds any expectations! “Kin” does everything right and is an absolute joy to watch.
“Kin” is directed by brother duo Jonathan and Josh Baker and is based on their 2014 short film “Bag Man.” Daniel Casey does an absolutely phenomenal job with this sci-fi/action screenplay and injects a great deal of humanity into the story (more on that later). The film stars Myles Truitt, Jack Reynor, Zoe Kravitz, Dennis Quaid, and a so-bizarre-it’s-fantastic performance by James Franco. The film is also executive produced by Michael B. Jordan.
“Kin” tells the story of an ex-con and his adopted younger brother who find themselves on the run from a vengeful thug, the feds, and a mysterious duo of otherworldly agents, following the tragic death of their father. Their only protection is a unique weapon of unknown origin and incredibly powerful capabilities.
I’ll echo, for a moment, my comments from the beginning of this review: this film is COOL. It’s not often you see sci-fi done in this way. When you think science fiction, you may think the sterile halls of the Enterprise or some unrecognizable alien world. It’s less likely you set your own sci-fi fantasies in the grit and decay of industrial Detroit or in seedy hotels and strip clubs. Well, you’d be mistaken in that choice, because “Kin” plays with setting in a way that instantly makes the film stand out. We so often push the limits of science fiction and fantasy, with our ability to create bigger and more fantastical worlds. There’s something special about bringing that sort of to a very accessible space. I’m into it.
Perhaps the highest praise I can offer “Kin” is that it is not just a good science fiction piece and it’s not just a solid action film…it’s just a damn good movie. I tip my symbolic hat to Daniel Casey for some top-notch writing. This story is so grounded and so raw and explores all the soft, tender parts of the heart; the science fiction is just the cherry on top. Themes of family, both by blood and the ones that you choose, and finding your path are beautifully woven into this adventure. If there had been no Future Blaster, this would have been a family-based drama worthy of award and accolade. Well done.
To build off that thought, great writing is only given life by great performances and “Kin” is chock full of them. Dennis Quaid is a standout and does the very most with the moments that he has. James Franco…oh, James Franco you freaky genius. That guy can play up the sleaze factor like no other and I will always admire the way he just melts into all the nooks and crannies of a role. Many times I found myself watching what Franco was doing in the background instead of the primary action. He just has that kind of presence.
All that said, the darling of the hour is Myles Truitt. I am admittedly hard on young actors and notoriously difficult to impress. Consider me won over! Truitt gave an incredibly sincere performance with no shortage of nuance and emotional depth, especially in someone so young. I hope to be seeing a lot more of him.
The film represented a delightful marriage between practical and digital effects; a particular sweet spot, for this critic. “Kin” brings in both elements with finesse and intention and it absolutely sells and delights.
Still not sold? “Kin” also has a surprise cameo that I can’t talk about here but that you definitely don’t want to miss!
I had the good fortune of being able to be there for a Q&A with directors Jonathan and Josh Baker, in addition to attending the “Kin” screening. It is gratifying to hear that so much passion turned out such a quality project. Not only is “Kin” well-made, it is lovingly made.
“Kin” held pleasant surprises for me, at every turn. I went in with a vague idea of what I thought this was going to be. I thought wrong and got so much more! Just when I thought I had something predicted or figured out, “Kin” would throw another surprise at the audience. To which I found myself whispering, “Oh that’s cool.”
To avoid the Spoiler Beast, suffice to say that “Kin” is admirably original and is a fantastic ride for any audience.
My verdict: Get out and see this one. It’s a small film, but it’s gonna be a hell of a lot more interesting than anything else you’ve seen lately.
“Kin” opens in theaters on August 31. It’s a must-see. Don’t sleep on this one!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.