On paper, the new teen-targeted sci-fi thriller, Kin, sounds promising. The action-packed tale of a shy, 14-year-old boy who discovers that he’s in possession of a special gift beyond his imagination, it’s like a YA cross between Divergent and The Maze Runner with a slightly trippy, slightly artsy Midnight Special twist. But that’s on paper. In practice, the movie directed by the Australian filmmaking brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker, is something far more troubling and borderline irresponsible.
A very good Myles Truitt stars as a teenager named Eli, who was adopted shortly after birth by a blue-collar family that includes a tough-but-loving father (Dennis Quaid) and a troubled older brother named Jimmy (Jack Reynor). His adoptive mother is no longer alive. Eli is an outcast who scavenges old derelict buildings for scrap metal to make a few bucks. One day, though, he stumbles upon something more otherworldly than discarded copper wire: the unconscious bodies of two helmeted, Daft Punk-looking alien soldiers and a briefcase-sized ray gun that responds to his – and only his – touch. He brings it home and stashes the alien boomstick under his bed, where it stays until his recently furloughed ex-con brother takes him on the lam cross-country chased by a brutal gangster (James Franco) to whom he owes money. The aliens who also want their weapon back are on their tails too. Along the way, Eli and Jimmy pick up a kindly stripper played by Zoe Kravitz, who deserves much better (both the character and the actress).
This dangerous adventure is meant to be pulse-pounding and heartwarming in equal measure. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the film’s deeply troubling underlying message long enough for my pulse to pound or my heart to warm. Because, make no mistake, Kin is a movie about a child with an all-powerful firearm that makes him feel important and special and powerful. On a one-to-ten scale of moral fecklessness, this ranks about a thousand.
You could argue – and I imagine that the filmmakers will – that plenty of contemporary movies feature more guns and bigger guns that fire off more rounds. But here’s why that argument doesn’t wash: Those movies carry R ratings and are meant for adult audiences who, in theory, know the difference between right and wrong, escapism and reality. Kin, on the other hand, is rated PG-13. And its hero – the one with the gun only he can fire and does fire quite a bit – is 14. Let me repeat that: He is 14. That’s three years younger than Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were when they went on their killing spree at Columbine High School and six years younger than Adam Lanza was when he murdered 27 kids and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. You can disagree with this reviewer’s take on Kin and what it’s saying both explicitly and implicitly about guns. But I can’t and won’t recommend it in good conscience. F