There are a handful of scenes scattered throughout Lionsgate’s sci-fi thriller from directors Jonathan and Josh Baker that are direct callbacks to Bag Man, the twin directors’ 2014 short about a young boy hiding a dangerous secret from the world. In those moments, you can see how the Bakers have grown as filmmakers in the years since Bag Man’s release and just what having a proper studio budget behind a project can do to a full-length cinematic adaptation.
At the same time, though, there’s an overall thinness to the connective tissue between those scenes that allows for the entire film to collapse under the weight of its questionable plot, paltry performances, and over-reliance on (admittedly slick) special effects.
Kin takes Bag Man’s mysterious, 15-minute-long story about a boy who finds a high-tech, possibly alien gun with massive destructive power, and stretches it into an unevenly-paced, 102-minute action thriller about a pair of brothers on the run from some murderous criminals.
Elijah Solinski (Myles Truitt) is the bright, misunderstood adopted son of widower Hal (Dennis Quaid) and brother to Jimmy (Jack Raynor), an ex-con trying to get his life together on the outside. Kin’s first major deviation away from Bag Man that ends up factoring into the overall strength of the film is the fact that Eli is black while his adopted family is white. While transracial adoptions are very much a thing that happens, there’s a very distinct sense of separation and, honestly, lack of familiarity between Eli, his father and his brother. It feels like a straight-up lack of chemistry between the actors being passed off as intentional.
As was the case in Bag Man, Eli spends many of his days cutting class — now actively searching for copper to steal from construction sites that he can sell for a profit. It’s during one of these scrapping expeditions that he comes across the feature film’s version of the futuristic gun. It’s abandoned by two alien-appearing warriors who take one another out during a fight Eli accidentally witnesses. After initially running away from the site in terror, Eli soon returns to collect the gun, which becomes bonded to his genetic signature, something that doesn’t become clear until much later in the film.
It’s here — as Eli returns home with his new toy in hand to find that Jimmy’s been freed from jail — where Kin really begins to fall apart specifically because it focuses on the older brother’s personal issues far too much. After stiffing local crime lord Taylor Balik (James Franco) out of some money, the Solinski brothers are forced to run for their lives as Balik and his associates chase after them looking for revenge.
Both Eli and Jimmy hide secrets from one another as they set out on a cross-country road trip they both understand might culminate in their deaths. And despite Kin’s title, this aspect of the film feels the most like these brothers have never actually met one another before.
Being on the run suits Jimmy, who revels in thinking on his feet. And while Eli’s having a certain degree of fun on the impromptu adventure, he has a world-weary sense of concern about his situation because he knows he has no business getting involved in Jimmy’s bullshit. Literally no adults really seem to be all that worried about Eli’s well-being in any meaningful way until the brothers meet Milly (Zoë Kravitz), a stereotypical kindhearted stripper who’s looking for a chance to live a new life. It’s...interesting, to say the least, that Milly’s one of the only other characters of colour in the film and that it’s in her that Eli finds his first truly responsible ally.
Yet all the same, the ragtag family unit never properly comes together before yet another plot — involving the beings who own Eli’s gun — is introduced midway through the film. In trying to be so much more than what Bag Man was, Kin feels strained past its limits and when you try to appreciate the film for what it is and what it’s trying to do, you can’t help but notice its weaknesses. There are a couple of action shots that might momentarily pull you out of the stupor the film will leave you in, and there’s a twist towards the end that will delight you for reasons that have nothing to do with the film. Aside from that, there isn’t much of anything positive to say about Kin.
Kin is out in US cinemas now, with its UK release TBA.
Featured image: Lionsgate