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Next of Kin is a 1989 American action thriller film directed by John Irvin and starring Patrick Swayze and Liam Neeson, with Adam Baldwin, Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton and Ben Stiller in one of his earliest roles. The screenplay was based on a story of the same title, both written by Michael Jenning.


Truman Gates (Patrick Swayze), raised in Appalachia, has migrated to Chicago to become a police officer. Married to Jessie (Helen Hunt), who is pregnant, he seems to have made the transition from hillbilly to respectable lawman. When the local coal mine closes, Truman persuades his younger brother Gerald (Bill Paxton) to look for work in Chicago. But things take a turn for the worse when soon after landing a job as a truck driver, Gerald's vehicle is hijacked by mobsters and Gerald is killed by Joey Rosellini (Adam Baldwin), the nephew of mob boss Papa John Isabella (Andreas Katsulas).

Truman returns to Kentucky for the funeral. When his surviving brother, Briar Gates (Liam Neeson), insists on a traditional mountain blood feud, Truman urges his family to let the police deal with Gerald's murder. Briar finds Truman's reluctance to be disgraceful. Determined to deal with the murderers in his own way, Briar travels to Chicago in search of his youngest brother's killer.

Meanwhile, Truman desperately tries to solve the crime before Briar takes revenge on his own. He approaches John Isabella and explains the mountain code to him. He suggests that if Gerald's murderer surrenders peacefully, it would save them both a lot of trouble. John, however, refuses on general principle, and Truman is left to continue his investigation.

After arriving in town, Briar gets a room at a flop house. Before he leaves, he gives the front desk clerk the phone number of his cousin back home and asks him to call the number if he doesn't return by morning.

Not wasting any time, Briar goes looking for information on the man who killed Gerald and, during his search, shoots up a local mob hangout. When Truman arrives a little later, Joey, embarrassed by the attack, says he is not pressing charges against Briar. He intends to "handle things" himself. When Papa John says he feels things are getting out of hand, Joey dismisses the threat, saying that the Gates family, "plow rocks for a living." John responds, "That's what they said about 'our' people back in Sicily."

Working together for a time, Briar and Truman learn the identity of the hijackers from a witness. Truman pressures Lawrence (Ben Stiller), the son of Papa John, to turn state's evidence against Joey. Lawrence goes to Joey for help, only to have Joey betray him. Lawrence's body is found with evidence of being tortured, and Briar's shotgun is found at the scene. Joey goes to Papa John, who devastated by his son's death, sanctions a hit on the supposed culprit. Before he can, Briar breaks into Rosellini's trucking company and engages in a gunfight with Joey's crew and kills two of Joey's guys before Joey shoots Briar twice. Fatally wounded, Briar dies in Truman's arms.

When the flop house desk clerk hears about the deaths at the Trucking Company on the news, he calls the phone number that Briar gave him.

Even though both Truman and the police know that the evidence against Briar was planted, and that Briar's death was an ambush, there is no proof. Truman resigns from the police force and goes after the Rosellini mob himself. As the Gates family gathers together and travels to Chicago to begin a war against the Outfit, Truman goes on the offensive and throws one of Joey's guys through the window of a restaurant. When Joey comes out, he finds "You forgot one," painted on Joey's car, and he vows to kill Truman without Papa John's permission.

Truman lures the Rosellini crew to a darkened cemetery, where an extended battle ensues, including the arrival of the Gates clan (and their hound dogs and rattlesnakes). In the end, Truman has Joey pinned on the ground with a knife to his throat only to be stopped when Papa John arrives with members of the Gates family held at gunpoint. He orders Truman to drop the knife and move out of the way. Papa John has learned the truth about Lawrence's murder, and to Joey's horror, he points the gun not at Truman, but at him. Joey asks him what is he going to do. The Don tells Joey, "This is for killing my son," and he fatally shoots Joey.

The Gates and Isabella families call a truce. Back at the police station, Truman finds Jessie and tells her, "You're my family."


  • Patrick Swayze as Detective Truman Gates
  • Liam Neeson as Briar Gates
  • Adam Baldwin as Joey Rosselini
  • Helen Hunt as Jessie Gates
  • Bill Paxton as Gerald Gates
  • Don James as David Jenkins
  • Ben Stiller as Lawrence Isabella
  • Andreas Katsulas as Johnny 'Papa John' Isabella
  • Michael J. Pollard as Harold
  • Joseph R. Ryan as Grandpa
  • Rodney Hatfield as Hollis
  • Brett Hadley as De Witt
  • Richard Wharton as Selkirk
  • Kelly Blair as Tolbert
  • Charles Williams as Pierce
  • Michael Wise as 'Snakeman'
  • Ted Levine as Willy Simpson
  • Del Close as Frank
  • Valentino Cimo as 'Rhino'
  • Paul Greco as Leo
  • Vincent Guastaferro as Paulie
  • Paul Herman as Lieutenant Tony Antonelli
  • Starla Fugate as Woman Pouring Coffee
  • Sally Murphy as Hooker
  • Lisa Niemi as Violinist (uncredited)



Some of the home scenes and the opening scenes were filmed in the small Perry County, Kentucky coal camp of Hardburly. Others were done at the M.C. Napier High School gym in Hazard, Kentucky and in Letcher County near Carbon Glow.

Bill Paxton and producers of the film went from door to door in counties such as Perry and Knott asking permission at old-time looking homes for small shots of inside or outside use. Deceased Knott County resident Theodore Combs refused entry to the producers after they wanted shots of an old water-well that was in his front yard. Combs denied for his home to be in the film for privacy reasons.


Next of Kin received mixed reviews from critics, scoring 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 9 reviews. Critic Brian Orndorf wrote, "Next of Kin isn't a dazzling picture, but there's personality about it that eases the blow of idiocy, keeping the adventure of Truman Gates, redneck cop, alive and well." It earned a Razzie Award nomination for Patrick Swayze as Worst Actor (also for Road House), where he lost to William Shatner for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In Sweden it was retitled Dirty Fighting (in English) to capitalize on Swayze's earlier success with Dirty Dancing. The film has since become a cult classic.


A soundtrack to the film was also released through Columbia Records. The album has been out of print for years and is considered a highly sought-after collector's item, usually priced fairly high on many online stores, including Amazon.