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On the surface, given the ensemble that are part of the 2018 sci-fi movie Kin, you'd think that they would have something decent on their hands. And the premise of the story is such that it shouldn't be that hard to mess up; protagonist is thrown into circumstances he could not have possibly imagined, featuring a wealth of supporting characters against a backdrop that is supposed to take you along for a ride. Easy enough, right?
Twin brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker wrote and directed the 2014 short Bag Man and with the help of Daniel Casey (The Passage) put together a screenplay for the feature-length film Kin, which they also directed. 14-year-old Eli (Myles Truitt) lives in Detroit with his adopted father Hal (Dennis Quaid, A Dog's Purpose), when Hal's biological and ex-con son Jimmy (Jack Reynor, Free Fire) returns home, looking for money so he can payback Taylor (James Franco, Free Fire), a tattooed crime figure. Jimmy and Eli try to escape and go on a road trip of sorts, while Eli wonders about a futuristic gun he found while exploring an abandoned building in town.
It does seem to be interesting on the surface, at least it's something you may not have been exposed to before. But as the film goes along, Kin seems to be unclear on what it exactly wants to be which, given the praise given to the short film in the supplemental material, is odd. Previews at the disc's beginning hint that it's a YA film of sorts where kids become warriors, so perhaps it's that. But it seems to want to try and tell a science fiction story using a relationship between Eli and Jimmy that seems…I dunno….strange. Jimmy takes Eli to a strip club, and Eli is allowed in, and the pair come across Milly (Zoe Kravitz, Insurgent), who goes on to serve as an emotional core of sorts for the trio. Mostly though, Eli just handles the gun while trying to learn about it, and stay out of trouble and Jimmy is trying not to get killed by Taylor.
Truitt's feature film debut is a decent one as Eli has a bit of a sadness to him with the death of his mother. Reynor is fine as is Franco (who continues to astound in his choice of film roles), and there are a couple of other casting surprises that are almost cameo-esque in their brevity and effectiveness. While the participants are complaint-free, it can't overcome the flaws in the story.
To its credit, Kin has a good amount of faith and belief in this futuristic environment it creates for itself, but the problem is it has a long way to go for you to get comfortable in that environment, as the main course over most of the second act is something that gets weird and makes you want to turn it off, despite your best efforts otherwise. It's not that it's bad, it's not good, largely because it doesn't make up its mind what it wants to do.The Blu-ray:
Lionsgate gives Kin an AVC encode to go with its 2.40:1 high-definition presentation that looks good but there are moments of haloing in CG/practical hybrid shots that dull the image a little. But practically shot film looks fine with deep black levels, colors are natural (the club has a little bit of noise in the purple lighting) as are flesh tones, and while Quaid's face has all the wrinkles and facial hair, I would have liked to see as much noticeable image detail in more parts of the film. It could have looked better, but looks OK.The Sound:
I'm still walking my way through my revamped home theater setup, but the DTS: X track of Kin is the cat's pajamas. The bass permeating through a lot of the gun noises (the fake futuristic one) give the sub an early workout, and strip club music pulses through the channels like you were there. Channel panning and directional effects in lesser dynamic moments are present and effective, and dialogue is consistent throughout the film. A modestly effective and powerful soundtrack.The Extras:
While the movie may not be up to the task, the extras are perhaps the most loaded I can recall in personal recent memory. The Bakers and Casey team up for a commentary that discusses design differences, recollections on the various locations, how involved Franco was, and highlights of the preproduction and production process. It's a busy track that doesn't get too in the weeds and is a nice complement to the film. Just as nice a complement, if not more so, is "Thicker Than Water," an eight-part making of look at the film that when added all up runs about 10 minutes longer than the film itself, at 1:51:25. The crew recalls the short and the reasons why they wanted to work with the Bakers, and the casting process is recalled, including the Skype session informing Truitt he got the part, in a cool moment. The cast discusses their characters, the story and the short at various points in the segment. The film's visual effects and look are discussed as is the character motivations from the actors' perspectives, and the weapons, music and sound design are touched upon as well. A ton of people are interviewed in here and this is worth the price of purchase alone if you're a fan of the film.
But there's still more! The visual effects are broken down (13:52) in a telestrator-type fashion, pointing out what effects are computer generated and what shots are practically done, and "Bag Man" is included for comparison purposes as well (14:39), with an optional commentary from the Bakers. "Learned Behavior" (59:19) is a roundtable with the Bakers, Kevin Smith and Laurent de Bouzereau (DVD extras producer of many Steven Spielberg films) as they talk about why they like extras, what makes a good extra, and what they want watchers of extras to get out of them. Ideas, intent and challenges of DVD extras are shown as well. It's a nice discussion and (sadly) something we don't see enough of these days. Ten deleted scenes (11:52) include one or two nice moments and include an introduction by the film's editor, and the trailer (2:27) completes a loaded package.Final Thoughts:
I can't help but give Kin some points with some originality of thought, but it goes from a promising start and wants to do both sides of the road well, but it doesn't come off that way at all. Technically the disc looks good (and sounds fantastic), and the extras are something that longtime DVD fans can respect and admire, but it doesn't overcome what is ultimately a disappointing feature.