The story centers around Truman Gates (Patrick Swayze), a Chicago police officer from Kentucky. When his brother Gerald (Bill Paxton) is killed by the Chicago mafia, his brother Briar (Liam Neeson) comes to town seeking revenge. Meanwhile, Adam Baldwin plays Joey Rosselini, an enforcer for the Isabella crime family who finds his position in jeopardy due to the don's son (Ben Stiller) trying to play a more active role in the family business.
Next of Kin provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Isabella and his son Lawrence are some of the nicest mobsters you'll ever meet.
- An Axe to Grind: One of the Gates uncles is seen throwing an axe to split logs when Truman arrives in the hills.
- Bar Brawl: Truman fights his brother Briar in a bar when he decides to take him in. The bartender tries to call the cops, but the one of the customers stop him and other remarks how the fight is "better than television".
- Children Are Innocent: Downplayed when Truman arrives back in the hills with Jessie. Some of his younger relatives are just happy to meet him and Jessie, with Jessie teaching playing her violin for one in a nice scene, but another is seen practicing with the bow and arrow, and declaring that he's imaging his target to be Gerald's killer.
- Honorary Uncle: Isabella appears to be one to Joey, given that Joey calls him Uncle Johnny right before being shot by him. but everywhere else in the movie makes it sound like he's just a subordinate and not a relative.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Despite being armed with machine guns and in an open graveyard, the mob goons pretty much fail to hit crap.
- The Kindness of Strangers: Briar asks Harold, the owner of the motel he's staying at, to call his Cousin Hollis if anything happens to him. After Briar is killed, although the man could have easily ignored this request especially given the new report that tells him what happened mentions Briar was killed attacking the Isabella's headquarters, and then goes a step forward by providing some direct aide to the family once they arrive in town.
- Noodle Incident: There's some history that Truman and Briar have between them that makes them reluctant to shake hands when Truman brings Gerald's brother home.
- Not So Different: During an exchange between Joey and Don Isabella, Joey refers to the Gates as stupid poor farmers. Don Isabella responds that that's how other Italians thought about Sicilians.Joey: Papa John, they're nothin', they plow rocks for a living.Don Isabella: Interesting. The same thing was said about our own people, in Sicily.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Truman mentions that one of his uncles was murdered, and his pregnant wife told the police that her son would avenge the murder, which he did at the age of sixteen. We never find out which of Truman's cousins this was, assuming he wasn't just making up the story to scare the Isabellas, but the fact that Briar saw Hollis as being the best choice of backup if he got in trouble implies it was him.
- Wham Shot: While it was easy to anticipate coming, the shots revealing the arrival of the Gates family, readying their weapons, as Truman is being cornered during the graveyard fight, accompanied by some ominous music.