When someone sets out to tell a story, the intent is to capture the audience’s imagination and provide a satisfying climax that keeps people wanting more. Everything is developed in a way that allows us to fall in love with the characters so much, we want to continue to spend time with them, even though they have received closure at the end of their story.
Sometimes, though, this need for more stems from the wrong reasons. The characters may meander through circumstances that don’t necessarily add up, eventually throwing us a curveball at the end that makes you wish that story was the one they had told instead of the one you actually had to sit through. This scenario is Kin in a nutshell — a film that provides nothing of substance until the very last minute, but by then, it’s far too late.
Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt) is a kid supposedly from the wrong side of the tracks. He gets into minor trouble at school, strips old buildings of their wiring for money and doesn’t seem to fit in. However, he has a good home life with a caring father, Hal (Dennis Quaid), who teaches him the value of hard work and doing the right thing. This dichotomy never quite feels right. Is Eli a troubled teen without a strong support system, or is he just a kid searching for who he is and trying to find his place in the world? Directors Jonathan and Josh Baker try to unify this opposition through pieces of dialogue sprinkled throughout, yet it never truly comes together the way they were hoping.
The story kicks in when Hal’s biological son, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), returns home after getting out of prison. Hal wants nothing to do with him, mainly because he’s afraid he’ll be a bad influence on Eli, and spends most of his time desperately trying to keep one son from falling into the degenerate trappings of the other. This helps explain a little of what Eli is going through, as if he’s nothing but a replacement for Jimmy because Hal didn’t get it right the first time. There’s also a very strong absence of a mother we never see. She died prior to the start of the film, but we can’t grasp why her death would have such a lasting impact on these characters because we never get to see how their relationships work(ed) with and without her.
It turns out, Hal was right in keeping Jimmy at a distance, as we discover that he’s in deep with a callous gang leader, Taylor Balik, (James Franco), who Jimmy hired to keep him alive in prison. Taylor’s now looking to be paid for that service, but of course, Jimmy doesn’t have the money he owes. When Hal catches Jimmy and Taylor in the act of robbing his safe, a shootout takes the life of both Hal and Taylor’s brother. Jimmy’s only recourse is to grab Eli and take him on a road trip to a cabin in Lake Tahoe where his mother used to love going. The chase is on, as Tayloir seeks revenge for his brother’s death.
This whole story arc feels arbitrary and forced. Not only is Taylor a paint-by-numbers antagonist with absolutely no depth, there’s the introduction of Zoë Kravits as Milly, a stripper with a heart of gold (natch) who jumps in with the brothers after they stand up to the abusive club owner. Milly may have been a fun character had she had any importance whatsoever. As it turns out, Milly is a useless character because her story doesn’t have much reason for being except to pad the run time. She doesn’t do anything of importance, she doesn’t say anything that changes anyone’s mind… heck, she’s not even set-up as a love interest. She’s just there, to what? Look pretty?
But wait. As evidenced by the image above, isn’t this a science-fiction film about some weird alien weapon? Why, yes it is, and the reason I haven’t brought this fact up yet is to prove my earlier point of wanting more of something for the wrong reasons. The entire story regarding Eli finding and using this extraordinary weapon feels entirely tacked on as an afterthought, only to be revealed as the most important aspect of the film in the last five minutes. Every part of this movie that involves the weapon, from learning how to use it to the mystery behind it, are the best parts of the film; it’s a shame it only encompasses about fifteen minutes of total run time.
Without giving anything away, the last ten minutes of this film will blow your mind, not only with the awesome visuals and the action set pieces, but because of what this movie could have been had they dove more into this idea rather than wasting all of that time on superfluous family drama. In other words, if the movie had been more about what happens, and what’s discovered, in the last five minutes than it was about the arbitrary road trip to nowhere, this movie could have been an exciting sci-fi, coming-of-age adventure. What we get instead is nothing more than an attempt at providing a message about doing the right thing even when it’s hard — a message that never truly resonates because the Baker brothers never get a full grasp of what they truly wanted to convey.
My Grade: C+
I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, and though there are some pieces that don’t quite fit, Crazy Rich Asians provides enough laughs and enough heart to make it another wining entry in the genre that doesn’t get much love anymore. A-
Like the Unfriended series before it, Searching takes place entirely within the space of computer screens and video feeds; unlike Unfriended, Searching finds it’s horror not through the gimmick itself, but through what can happen online, making the search for a man’s missing daughter into a thrilling, frightening whodunit. A
Next week, new movies include Peppermint, The Nun and God Bless the Broken Road. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.