Sibling co-writers/co-directors Jonathan and Josh Baker expand and yet diminish their short film Bag Man with this messy and oddly pretentious sci-fi actioner that offers a glimmer of the forgotten Laserblast (1978), a lot of awkward moral messaging about family, a vague bit about race, credibility gaps by the dozen and veritable truckloads of ‘Young Adult’ teenie agonising. How the Bakers managed to convince several name actors to appear is something of a mystery, but surely they all hoped they were signing up for a series and saw the chance for some enjoyable hamming, which sits pretty ill with the more understated and sour performances of the non-stars.
In a rundown area of Detroit (um, isn’t it all rundown in actual fact?), although this was apparently mostly shot in Toronto, we meet 14-year-old Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt), an African American lad who is bullied at school and devotes his free time to skulking around abandoned buildings, where he illegally collects scrap metal and wire to sell. This peculiar pastime is in effect so that he can eventually make an ‘amazing’ discovery, but this is delayed by the need to introduce his adoptive and widower Dad Hal, who’s played with growling glumness by Dennis Quaid with what sounds like a serious throat infection.
Hal’s biological son Jimmy (Jack Reynor), a ne’er-do-well recent ex-con, also turns up and kicks off the rest of the plot as he and Hal argue nastily, and while all that’s happening, Eli finds a mysterious hi-tech weapon, which weirdly responds to his touch. We know that it was left in a derelict apartment block after some low-budget shenanigans featuring armoured alien sorts in the opening scene, and Eli doesn’t know what to do with it, until the thing comes in handy when it’s revealed that Jimmy owes $60000 to crime kingpin Taylor Balik (James Franco in sleazy mode), and he and his goons want blood.
During an eventual cross-country dash full of script conveniences, the pair also meet Milly (Zoë Kravitz) at a strip club where young Eli is improbably allowed access and none of the girls actually seem to strip (that might compromise this one’s ability to reach a youth audience with an M or PG-13 rating). And she’s such a stock, clichéd character despite Zoë’s best efforts, especially given how she’s willing to throw her life away to accompany two fugitives, one an underage kid with a big, scary gun, and help them engage in dangerous, even criminal activity.
Obviously the victim of behind-the-scenes fiddling-about by the Bakers, the producers or others (note how vogue player Carrie Coon turns up late in the narrative and doesn’t really do anything), this is a pic aimed at adolescents that’s about as clumsy as something like the teen plodder The Darkest Minds, but done with fewer finances and trying harder to make heavy points about… um… ‘Young Adult’ stuff. And then there’s that ludicrous ending, which seems to promise a sequel (Kin 2: Akin For A Day?) that probably – and mercifully – won’t happen.
2.5 stars (out of 5)