KIN, 180G Red Vinyl LP
KIN is a movie about a futuristic bazooka that can blast walls out of buildings and instantly turn people into dust. The music of Mogwai has been known to do the same. But as the Scottish group have amassed enough soundtrack credits to qualify as the four-headed Hans Zimmer of indie rock, Mogwai’s film scores have typically avoided their more anarchic tendencies in favor of their more ambient, meditative qualities. And while KINmarks the band’s first dalliance with a mainstream Hollywood action flick after a handful of documentary and art-house efforts, their soundtrack ultimately emphasizes a subtlety not so readily gleaned from the Comic-Con-courting poster campaign.
For all its explosions, shootouts, and motorcycle-riding aliens, KIN is essentially a gritty domestic drama about a poor Detroit family that’s still reeling from the death of its matriarch when eldest son Jimmy (Jack Reynor) returns home after several years in prison and tries to mend his estranged relationship with his grizzled construction-worker dad (Dennis Quaid). Caught in the middle is Eli (Myles Truitt), the 14-year-old adopted son who discovers the aforementioned killer gizmo while out scavenging for scrap metal, and sets the film’s road-trip narrative in motion.
KIN was made by the same production team that gave us “Stranger Things,” and at the outset, the film shares certain characteristics with the retro-’80s Netflix series—not the least of which is a young, curious protagonist who spends his free time tooling around town on a BMX. But it’s not until around 20 minutes into the film that you realize KIN is actually set in the present day—if Eli’s Detroit stomping grounds have a distinctly ’80s feel, it’s only because economic stagnation has frozen his neighbourhood in time. Likewise, Mogwai’s score leans heavily on the sinister electro-prog synths that have been a regular presence of their sound since 2011’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, but have since become an instant ’80s-flick shorthand thanks to S U R V I V E’s “Stranger Things” theme. However, if KIN’s sudden shifts between conversational, coming-of-age tale and blow-‘em-up summer blockbuster can feel as jarring as the infamous quiet/loud shocks the defined Mogwai’s signature records, the band’s soundtrack ultimately plays more of a mediating role. Subtly fusing synthetic elements with naturalistic touches, their score is the unifying element in a film that plays like The Terminator as made by the Duplass Brothers.