At first glance, “Kin” (Summit) looks like another in a long line of movies about the disruption caused by a parolee returning home after doing time. But, as we soon discover, there’s much more to “Kin” than meets the eye.
Prophetically-named 14-year-old African-American Elijah (Myles Truitt), lives with his adoptive single father Hal (a grizzled Dennis Quaid) somewhere in the decaying Michigan. Elijah is a loner who doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. He gets suspended from school for fighting with a classmate who said something nasty about his late step-mother.
The timing of his suspension coincides with the release from prison of his older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor bringing rough-trade realness), the biological son of Hal. Suffice to say that Hal’s not too happy to see him and things go downhill rapidly. Jimmy is $60k in debt to scumbag loan shark Taylor (an especially sleazy James Franco) for protection while incarcerated and Hal won’t help.
Meanwhile, Elijah has been making a little extra money scavenging in the area’s abundant abandoned buildings and warehouses and selling the scrap. On one scrapping mission, he experiences a strange vibration, followed by an explosion. He also discovers several dead bodies dressed in strange uniforms, as well as an other-worldly weapon that responds to his touch.
When Hal walks in on Jimmy raiding the safe in his office to repay his debt, with Taylor and his psychopathic brother Dutch, there is a shoot-out resulting in the death of Hal and Dutch. Jimmy flees and convinces Elijah to leave town with him and head to Lake Tahoe to their late mother’s cabin. Elijah, unaware of what has happened to Hal, agrees and they pack up and leave. Elijah wisely includes the mysterious weapon.
On the drive west, with Taylor and his gang in pursuit, Elijah and Jimmy make a stop in a strip club where they meet stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold Milly (Zoë Kravitz). After an unfortunate bouncer encounter where Elijah learns about the wallop his weapon packs, the newly formed trio hits the road.
As they get closer to Tahoe, there is more troublesome happenstance in a casino. Elijah sees a TV news report about the murder of Hal in which Jimmy is named as a suspect. His confrontation with Jimmy, who had planned to tell Elijah the truth, brings unwanted attention and leads to the brothers’ capture.
In addition to being hunted down by vengeful Taylor and his thugs, two of the strangely uniformed beings are in pursuit, as well, with a particular interest in the powerful weapon. The question is, who will get there first?
Here’s where things (finally) get interesting: a jailhouse confrontation between Taylor’s team, local law enforcement and the FBI is disrupted by the arrival (on fast-moving motorcycles) by the uniformed strangers (one of whom is played by Michael B. Jordan). It is at this point, in the mere last few minutes of the movie, that Elijah’s true identity (heretofore unknown to him) is revealed, truly expanding the meaning of kinship. In other words, the previous 90 minutes or so has been set-up for a potential series.
With that in mind, it’s fair to say that without a Marvel or DC-sized budget, co-directors/screenwriters Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker (whose short film “Bag Man” is the basis for “Kin”) managed to craft an unexpectedly surprising (and occasionally predictable) piece of sci-fi entertainment. If there are others to follow, with hope the film’s lead actor Truitt will have a chance of developing into a better actor.