Richard Stengel
April 20, 1990 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Next of Kin

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Liam Neeson, Patrick Swayze, Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Michael J. Pollard, Ben Stiller
director
John Irvin
distributor
Warner Bros.
genre
Drama, Mystery and Thriller, ActionAdventure

We gave it a C

Crude and dishonest mobsters versus crude but honest hillbillies. Big-city slickness versus down-home shrewdness. This is the core idea behind Next of Kin, a straightforward revenge drama starring Dirty Dancing‘s Patrick Swayze.

Swayze, who sports a dog-eared fedora and a ponytail, and doffs his shirt whenever possible, plays a laconic Chicago cop who left his Kentucky hollow to catch crooks in the windy city. When Swayze’s kid brother is murdered, he sets out to find the killers using his country cunning. So do his Kentucky kin, who troop up from Appalachia and grimly act out their eye-for-an-eye justice.

The hillbillies are the new wrinkle in this hackneyed formula. Curiously, they come off as far more authentic than the Chicago mobsters, who are tiresome stereotypes. Liam Neeson, as Swayze’s gaunt and rough-hewn brother, gives a hauntingly good performance, and Swayze is winning but not really convincing as the good-old-boy detective. The scenes in the hill country have a natural charm that the rest of the film lacks.

The ending features a kind of gentlemen’s agreement between the old-world godfather and the fresh-faced country cop. This bond of blood is not only implausible, it’s a disturbing endorsement of the idea that violence is the most efficient way of ironing out a family problem. C

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