One of the things that excites me most as a critic is seeing new voices. New directors who show us something fresh and unique that strays away from the norm of cinema. It offers up an interesting film-going experience, as well as gets me excited for the future of cinema.
Kin is the debut film from twin directors Jonathon and Josh Baker and it is an impressive debut. Though the film is flawed, particularly in the middle third, this is a film that subverts the sci-fi genre in an interesting way and shows that the Baker brothers have a bright future in cinema.
In Kin, Eli (Myles Truitt) is the adopted son of Hal (Denis Quaid), a tough, grizzled, blue collar man. Eli doesn’t have any friends and when he’s not getting suspended from school, he’s scrapping from a broken down building for extra money on the side. One evening while scrapping, Eli stumbles upon a futuristic weapon and, without knowing what it is or what it does, takes it without letting anyone know. A couple of futuristic solders come to retrieve the weapon, only to realize it is gone. They then go on a mission to find Eli and the weapon.
At the same time, Eli’s brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) has just returned home after a six year prison stint. Before entering prison, Jimmy bought protection from a local gangster named Taylor (James Franco) and now must pay him back. Unfortunately, Jimmy doesn’t have the money and has no way of legally getting it. When a botched robbery leads to tragedy, it forces Jimmy and Eli to go on the run from Taylor, all while Eli is being chased by the solders for the weapon.
There’s a lot going on here. Kin is a road movie, family movie, sci-fi movie, coming of age movie, and gangster movie all rolled into one and it’s a bit overwhelming and not all of it works. The entire movie felt like we got half of every story, with each one never reaching its full potential. However, each story is interesting, which makes it even more frustrating. Being the Baker brothers first film, it felt like they wanted to get every genre they liked into one film, yet didn’t take the time to really find the true story of the film. They easily could have made three different movies from within this one movie, focusing more in-depth on the characters and the story and less about subverting genre.
However, the stuff that works really works, particularly the first third and the final act, offers up some great emotional moments, as well as gives us some exciting action sequences. These parts of the film show the potential of the Baker brothers. It shows that they know cinema and that they know how to write good characters and that they understand visuals. They just needed someone to reel them in a little bit and refine their script. And at the end of the day, the brothers made a movie about the love of family and understanding what it means to be a family, whether blood related or not, a simple theme, but a powerful one.
The Baker brothers also get really good performances throughout the film, even when the plot doesn’t work. Newcomer Myles Truitt shines in a great debut performance, Jack Reynor continues to build his resume and show his range, Denis Quaid is at an all-time grizzled, Zoe Kravitz is charming as a stripper Eli and Jimmy meet on their trip, and James Franco is the perfect amount of intimidating and scumbag as the low-level gangster.
Kin is far from perfect, but it does show promise from a pair of young filmmakers. The performances are good throughout the entire film and there are some great sequences, particularly the finale. The Baker brothers are a couple of young filmmakers who will learn from this film and be a force to be reckoned with in the future.