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Kin **

A boy and his gun isn’t much fun.

Is it worth $10? No

“Kin” is a road trip movie with a smattering of sci-fi, a race against time as the protagonists are chased by several different factions. But for me, “Kin” is a race against time because it’s only a matter of it before the movie’s erased completely from my memory. It’s not awful. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it. But there’s nothing really right with it, either. It’s forgettable.  

Starting in the blue collar neighborhoods of Detroit (which, sadly, still haven’t found economic footing), the story focuses on young Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt), living with his strict, but loving father, Hal (Dennis Quaid). He’s a good kid, but having suffered a great loss at home, he’s getting into fights at school and is suspended.

He spends his extra free time scouring the abandoned factories for scrap metal to sell at junkyards. What begins as a slice of life drama takes a different turn, though, as Eli makes an incredible/disturbing discovery on his latest excursion, coming across the remains of a firefight, except the bodies are those of futuristic looking soldiers (one whose head is blown clear off, the armor around his torso still smoldering. But there’s no blood. This movie's strictly PG-13). Amidst the carnage he comes across a mysterious metal box, which, when he touches it, springs to life and transforms into a powerful looking weapon, an alien ray gun with a design that’s both cool, with its luminescent accents, and ungainly, with a boxy Volvo from the ‘80s look.

Keeping his discovery a secret, Eli comes home to find his older brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), fresh out of jail, has come to stay. Jimmy is funny and kind, doesn’t seem hardened by prison time, but Eli’s father warns him not to get too close. Jimmy’s not a bad person, but he can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Turns out he owes Taylor (James Franco), a local crime lord, a lot of money for protecting him while in prison. (Do crime lords really offer protection on an IOU basis?)

Jimmy, of course, doesn’t have the cash and Taylor’s plan to squeeze it out of him results in tragedy, putting Jimmy on the run with Eli, who’s unaware of the dangers around him, being told they’re going on a road trip to Lake Tahoe. With a murderous Taylor hot on their trail, it’s a good thing Eli has his alien weapon with him. Of course that weapon has also drawn the attention of the enigmatic, otherworldly soldiers to whom the gun belongs, and they begin tracking the duo cross-country.

“Kin” opens strong with a wordless sequence that begins as a simple introduction to the dilapidated neighborhoods of the film’s first act, before ending in what appear to be a laser battle and a literal bang. It’s good stuff, moody, intriguing, and a little exciting.

The rest of the movie is none of those things.  

Kin2

It’s basically a family drama with a sci-fi twist. Though, twist seems a little generous, at least until the last five minutes of the movie. For most of its runtime “Kin” is a road trip with a zest of sci-fi. Whole chunks go by where it forgets the protagonist has a space gun and that he’s being chased by mysterious aliens.

The movie apparently also forgets that a murderous antagonist is chasing after the leads as the story plods along without urgency, focusing on the brothers’ bonding. This could be interesting if these scenes were insightful or emotional.

And sometimes, the writing’s just plain lazy. Franco, who lets his squint do most of the acting here, has a scene where he interrupts his intimidation of another character to appreciate the bridge of a song playing on a nearby radio. Clichéd. Later, the Baker brothers cram the only female character into the narrative in the sloppiest way possible. Jimmy bribes his 14-year-old brother’s way into a strip club, where they meet Milly (Zoë Kravitz), a proverbial stripper with a heart of gold, who, after knowing them for a couple of hours joins these two complete strangers on their “adventure,” only to be conveniently written out of the story for the big action finale.

And that finale? It has a pulse at least, but it also reveals a twist that turns the whole movie into nothing more than a shambling prequel to a potential franchise. Again?! One gets the feeling the directors are more interested in that theoretical sequel than they are in this listless drama.

August tends to be a quiet month for movies. Summer’s winding down, kids are going back to school. I hoped “Kin” would be an unexpected sleeper to shake up these overly hot days. Too bad it’s just literally a snooze.