(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on October 21, 2009.)
Neither Livia nor I could remember whether we’d ever seen this movie before, and as it turns out, we hadn’t. And that’s fine, because it left us with a good movie to watch for the first time.
NEXT OF KIN finds Swayze playing Truman Gates, a Chicago cop who hails from the mountains of Kentucky, where he still has a lot of relatives who work in the coal mines there. His younger brother, though, has followed him to Chicago and works for a vending machine company, and not surprisingly, said brother gets killed in a mob takeover of the company. Swayze’s character wants to find the killer and bring him in legally, but his other brother back in the mountains (Liam Neeson) wants to come to Chicago and avenge the death personally, as mountain tradition demands. Naturally this brings him into conflict with Swayze’s character.
This whole “hillbillies vs. the mob” scenario is pretty predictable but still very entertaining. Swayze is impossibly young and athletic and charismatic, although not as impossibly young as Ben Stiller, who is oddly cast but fairly effective as a mob leader’s son who wants to get into the family business. Adam Baldwin makes for a smarmy and menacing bad guy, and although Neeson’s backwoods accent slips over into the bizarre at times, he’s good as the vengeance-driven brother. There’s an occasional lapse of logic in the script, but it all ends up in a fine showdown that plays as if the screenwriter read one of Louis L’Amour’s Sackett books and thought, “Hey, you could do a modern version of this!”
I’m not sure how we missed this when it came out twenty-six years ago. Most of you probably saw it then. But if you haven’t, it’s well worth investing a couple of hours of your time.