In the long line of “young adult” movies aimed at pre-teens, this one is a little rough for its target audience.  It does have some interesting layers for the adults.

            Eli (Myles Truitt) is 14 going on 20.  He says he doesn't fit in anywhere at school.  In fact, we meet him outside the principal's office, where he's just been suspended for fighting.  It seems somebody said something about his deceased mother.  Eli's Dad (Dennis Quaid) is doing the best he can, but it's obvious he's already disappointed in his older son, and is coming down hard on Eli to try to make sure he toes the straight and narrow, but right now that “tough love” seems to be pushing him in the other direction.  Eli's ashamed of his scruffy shoes, so he picks up some extra money finding scrap metal around abandoned buildings---and they're plenty of them in Detroit.  The trouble is, his Dad still thinks it's stealing, and tells Eli he better call the companies that owned those buildings and 'fess up.  Eli decides this would not be a good time to tell his Dad about the strange high-tech transformer gun he found.  He doesn't know quite how it works yet, but he does think it's cool.

            What's not cool is the return of the elder son, Jimmy (Jack Reynor).  He's just gotten out of prison---six years for theft, and apparently that's just what they were able to pin on him.  Despite his boyish good looks, he's a scoundrel at heart.  And now he's got a big problem, because the man who provided protection for him in prison now intends to collect. And Jimmy just doesn't have it.  Reluctantly, he asks his Dad, who not only refuses, he kicks him out of the house for returning to his old criminal ways so quickly.  That just pushes Jimmy right into the arms of his hoodlum boss, Taylor (James Franco).

            Now comes the first left turn----Jimmy and Eli take Daddy's truck and take off for Reno.  Actually, Jimmy lies to Eli, but then, he's used to telling lies.  This road trip mostly involves cheap hotels and anonymous diners, but it's when they stop at a “gentlemen's club” that we wonder if pre-teens should be watching this.  Jimmy spends lots of money acting like a big shot, and is in the middle of being roughed up afterwards when Jimmy appears with his mysterious alien ray gun, or whatever it is that blows things to smithereens.

            Now the next left turn---there are a couple of invincible motorcyle riders in hot pursuit of the ray gun, which apparently gives off a certain homing signal.  Jimmy and Eli run from the bar with the assistance of one of the dancers (Zoe Kravitz),who tells Jimmy how to get back the money he left at the bar (in exchange for her cut of the proceeds, of course).

            Now we have the three unlikely Musketeers on the lam, with not only the good guys and the bad guys after them, but also this pair of alien motorcyclists.  The shootup at the sheriff's office features the all-too-brief cameo of Emmy and Tony nominee Carrie Coon (who, puzzlingly, gets first billing).

            And then there's the final left turn, the alien appearance, complete with the fascinating capacity for stop-action, whicle they make good their escape into the disappearing portal.

            Well, it's definitely not your typical robber drama.  But parents should be judicious about the PG-13 rating, despite the teenage main character.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association