64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Next of Kin (1989) (DVD)
In terms of just pure plot, Next of Kin is -- in many ways -- a typical example of the unconventional cop vs. the mob film genre of the 1980s...However, if Next of Kin is ultimately a genre piece, its still a better-than-average example of the what the genre is capable of. Certainly, its probably the only film ever made by Patrick Swayze that can legitimately be called underrated.
Plotwise, the film sounds almost like a parody. Patrick Swayze is a former hillbilly from Appalacia Country who has left behind his rustic family to become a big city cop and to romance sophisticated music teacher Helen Hunt. (Is there a reason why big city cops with simple backgrounds always seem to end up romancing music teacers in these films?) Swayze's younger brother Bill Paxton also comes to the city, to pursue a life of petty crime that ends up getting him killed by mobster Adam Baldwin which leads to yet another Swayze brother coming down to the city, this one played by Liam Neeson. As Neeson seeks revenge, Swayze is forced to return to his roots in order to avenge both his brother and protect his girlfriend.
Yet somehow, all of this works rather effectively on screen. The film is directed by Englishman John Irvin who has made a rather unsung career out of bringing a stronger-than-usual sense of characterization to genre films (the best example being the war film Hamburger Hill). Although Irvin's filming of the action scenes are a little pedestrian, he still has a strong visual sense and manages to vividly contrast the conflicting worlds of the country and the city. The film's supporting cast is well chosen and both the heroes and the villians all come to life with a surprising amount of dignity. At no point do any of the actors demean their roles by playing ...typical hillybillys or, for that matter, ...typical mobsters and that shows an unusual and admirable amount of integrity for a film of this sort. Paxton isn't on screen long but remains, as always, a likeable presence and Adam Baldwin makes a compellingly understandable and hissable villian. Michael J. Pollard shows up as a hillbilly and brings his trademark quirkiness to the proceedings while the role of the nerdy mob scion is played by Ben Stiller, of all people. Its a little jarring to see Stiller show up on screen (especially playing an essentially villianous role) yet he gives a strong performance without resorting to do any standard Stiller bits. Helen Hunt's role is ...typical but she's probably far warmer in this role than she's been in any of her prestige pictures. Certainly, the best performance in the film is given by Liam Neeson who dominates the proceedings with the grim sincerity he brings to his quest for revenge. This Irish actor also manages to perfectly capture the unique accent of the Appalacian region. As an actor, Patrick Swayze has always been limited and he's always been better at projecting sincerity than complexity. Luckily, his role in Next of Kin has been designed to require little more of him than sincerity and, if Next of Kin doesn't represent his best performance, its certainly his most likeable.
Next of Kin isn't a great film. As stated before, the story is a tad bit too predictable and that's only made more obvious when the story is populated by a better-than-average cast and directed by a truly talented director. However, this is a rare genre piece in which it is obvious that everyone involved actually put in their best efforts to make a worthwhile film and the results are both admirable and entertaining.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 16, 2009 5:41:16 AM PDT
C. A. Luster says:
Excellent review. I am surprised you didn't give it another star.
Posted on Sep 14, 2009 9:46:25 PM PDT
James McGowan says:
Definitely the most well-written review I have seen on Amazon.com.
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