Before you go see KIN, know this: There's going to be a sequel. There has to be.
The feature film debut of directors and brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker walks a weird line between gritty reality and otherworldly sci-fi. The Baker brothers have only written and directed a handful of short films, and KIN is based on 2014's Bag Man. It's an admirable effort that hangs together well, despite some obvious shortcomings.
As the film opens, we meet Eli Solinski (promising newcomer Myles Truitt), a smart but troubled kid who is the adopted son of Hal, a hardworking widower played by Dennis Quaid (Something to Talk About). When he's not getting in trouble at school, Eli has a side hustle selling wire from abandoned Detroit buildings. That's where he finds a futuristic gun that is the film's strongest tie to science fiction until the very end.
Eli's older brother is Hal's biological son, Jimmy (Jack Reynor, Grassland), who just got out of jail. He's in deep with local dirtbag Taylor (James Franco, Freaks and Geeks) for protecting him in prison. It's the reason Jimmy and Eli (kin, get it?) have to hit the road, with Taylor close on their heels.
Also on their heels are two soldiers from the future who seem pretty anxious to get that gun back from Eli. Everyone eventually catches up to Jimmy and Eli and the film comes together in very cool way, but with only minutes to wrap it up. Franco's larger-than-life-gangster arc fizzles, and most of the plot questions are addressed with what feels like a line or two. That's the beef most people seem to have with the film, anyway, and it's legit.
The Bakers hooked up with Stranger Things producers Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen, and the film has strong ties to the feel of that series, right down to Eli riding his bike everywhere in the beginning of the movie. Overall, it coalesces pretty well with respect to tempo and mood, but weak spots include Reynor as well as a strong need for a few minutes more on the tail end to get the viewer more invested in the plot twist.
KIN is getting panned big-time on metrics sites like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic, but those ratings feel a bit impatient. If this movie does stand alone, you'll have reason to be disappointed, but if it's the start of something innovative (or even just interesting), you'll be rewarded. It plays pretty well on the big screen, so if you're going to roll the dice, do it soon.
+ Cool premise, consistent feel; Truitt and Franco
– Reynor and the lightning-fast denouement
Directed by: Jonathan and Josh Baker
Starring: Truitt, Quaid, Reynor, Zöe Kravitz and Franco
Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 108 min.