Anchor Bay // 2011 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // February 21st, 2012
Serve. Protect. Lie.
Dito Montiel's The Son of No One marks the third collaboration between the filmmaker and Hollywood star Channing Tatum (The Vow). While the two seem to be getting along very well on a professional level, their efforts certainly don't always pay off. Case in point: The Son of No One only scored a tiny theatrical release, barely made any money, and faced one negative critical review after another. Somewhere deep within this disappointing crime drama lies a promising concept, but Montiel's script barely shows any signs of hope or appeal. In short, this film is the epitome of a missed opportunity.
The Son of No One is set in New York just a few months after the 9/11 attacks. Tatum slips into the role of Jonathan White, a young NYPD officer recently assigned to the precinct covering his old neighborhood, the Queensbridge projects in Queens. Struggling with a guilty conscience linked to a dark past, Jonathan's life takes a turn for the worse when he's forced to look into an unsolved double homicide dating back to 1986. Before he knows it, Jonathan finds himself caught in a web of police cover-ups, terrifying memories, and a slew of secrets that could instantly destroy his life and his family.
Despite its good intentions, The Son of No One fails to generate moderate interest or suspense, because it is too busy wrestling with illogical, tedious storytelling. Not much of what you get to experience during the film's 94-minute run time makes any sense. In fact, every time you feel the plot possibly heading in a more compelling direction, things take a turn for the worse. Montiel's writing makes it very hard for spectators to remotely care about any of the movie's characters or their obstacles, focusing instead on constantly switching back and forth between slow-moving segments set in 2002 and gritty flashbacks from 1986. Structurally, The Son of No One just doesn't work.
As the opening scenes reveal, Jonathan is the man responsible for the murders now suddenly coming back to haunt him. No spoilers here, because the film makes sure that's the first thing we find out about this guy. Anyway, strange letters accusing the NYPD of covering up those very murders start showing up at Jonathan's precinct, further messing with his head. If the secret gets out, he could lose his job, his wife, and his kid, and things may never be the same. Although this is clearly the point at which The Son of No One should kick into a high gear and take things to the next level, the film does quite the opposite by slowing down and dragging out a story that has no idea how to evolve.
None of what happens next is particularly exciting. Mysterious letters trashing the cops keep showing up, an aggressive journalist (Juliette Binoche, Summer Hours) who knows too much threatens to publish police secrets, and Jonathan's boss (Ray Liotta, Narc) starts getting nervous. Jonathan eventually tries to find out who's threatening to uncover his dark secret, but his little crusade fails to pack a punch. Several shallow twists and insignificant revelations later, a sudden showdown provokes a ridiculously over-the-top gun battle involving the film's key characters, leaving viewers wondering why they're still watching.
I have no idea how Montiel pulled it off, but he managed to book Tatum, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche, AND Al Pacino for this thing. Even though this sounds too good to be true, all of these actors get a decent amount of screen time, and most deliver surprisingly decent performances. Morgan and Pacino stand out the most, with Holmes and Liotta close behind. Tatum does what he can with a rather shallow character, but the moustache he's sporting makes it a tad more difficult to take him seriously. With a better script, this group of fine actors could've done a whole lot more with The Son of No One.
On a technical note, Anchor Bay put together a solid standard definition DVD. The film boasts a sharp, clean 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sporting vibrant colors and appropriate black levels. Audio is provided through a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. Bonus features include a few deleted scenes and an audio commentary featuring Montiel and editor Jake Pushinsky. Not the most riveting commentary, but they do occasionally touch on something interesting during their analysis.
The Son of No One is a pretty chaotic cop drama that tries to morph into a thriller but desperately fails. The ensemble cast has what it takes, but Montiel's script just isn't worth your time. Messy, chaotic, and nonsensical, The Son of No One tells a story without real purpose; a predicament many films can't recover from.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes