Review: ‘Kin’ (Laserblast redone right)

The filmmakers liked those 1980-ish scifi-action films so much, they made one… and it’s pretty good.

Fourteen-year old Eli (Myles Truitt) is the youngest member of the Solinski family… and also adopted. Always feeling like an outsider, it’s just been him and his dad (Dennis Quaid) since his older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) ended up in jail six years earlier and after the death of their mother. Eli spends a lot of time alone, often scrapping metals out of abandoned factories in Detroit, Michigan, but everything changes when he stumbles upon a massacre — dead armored soldiers with hi-tech gear — and runs away when one grabs for him. Waking from a dream the next night, he’s compelled to go back but discovers all the evidence gone… except for a futuristic block-nosed rifle that responds to his touch.

Any retro film fans will recognize sci-fi action elements from flicks like They Live and The Terminator, while just as many gamers will recognize elements from modern first-person POV shooters using collapsible weapons and HUD graphics. Here’s a movie that dares to combine the two: a powerless outcast teen that stumbles into an adventure where only he can make a difference — but using this new advantage calls into question of what kind of person he is or could become. With so little to go on but boasting an interesting cast, will audiences be lured with the promise of something both old and new?

There was once a low-budget 1978 thriller called Laserblast, described on as, “A teenager stumbles upon an alien weapon which transforms him into a grotesque killer.” A terrible movie made all the worse having no budget for aliens or special effects at a time when audiences were then expecting another Star Wars or at least “Battlestar Galactica.” It’s as if directors Jonathan and Josh Baker watched it and said, “What if this was written and made today, but do it right and do it well?” While the final cut could probably be done for as a television pilot and look just as good, it succeeds in earning a place on the silver screen, delivering the right kind of twist in exactly the right kind of way.

This probably isn’t an accident, either — anyone familiar with these kinds of films will see the so-called twist coming a mile away — but it works. Dennis Quaid provides fatherly advice, Zoë Kravitz helps out where she can, and James Franco goes full-on bad guy not to be messed with. Listening to dialog delivered by Jack Reynor is eerie; while looking nothing like him, he sounds exactly like Bill Paxton: tone, inflection, and delivery. The story itself rests on the shoulders of newcomer Myles Truitt in his first film role after playing characters in “Atlanta,” “Queen Sugar,” and the CW’s “Black Lightning.” As a loner kid trying to make a connection, he does what any teen would do with something that looks like a cosplay prop, but his choices afterward informs not only his character but his future. This isn’t a story about glorifying guns; it’s about doing what’s right to keep your family safe and together.

A couple of scenes drag a little long, but there are more than a few moments that make up for them, and it’s clear the filmmakers would like to eventually see Kin 2: The New Batch or even Kin 3: The Destruction of Jared-Sin. In the meantime, it’s a fun little modernized throwback that appreciates sci-fi action flicks the way “Stranger Things” idolizes 1980s horrors films; your mileage may vary.

Kin is rated PG-13 for gun violence and intense action, suggestive material, language, thematic elements, drinking, and a stripper with a heart of gold.

Three skull recommendation out of four

Go ahead and say it: you want one.

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