The Son of No One

The Son of No One (DVD Cover)

Cast: Detective Charles Stanford (Al Pacino), Officer Jonathan White (Channing Tatum), Officer Thomas Prudenti (James Ransone), Captain Marion Mathers (Ray Liotta), Kerry White (Katie Holmes), Charlotte White (Ursula Parker), Vincent Carter (Tracy Morgan), Loren Bridges (Juliette Binoche), Young Jonathan (Jake Cherry), Young Vinny (Brian Gilbert), Young Vicky (Simone Jones)

Director: Dito Montiel

Theatrical release: 11/04/2011
DVD Date: 02/21/2012

Rating: R
Running Time: 94 minutes

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The Son of No One

Review: This film is a near-to-complete miss on several levels … which is really discouraging as it boasts a stellar cast and a strong premise. Let's see if I can identify where it went wrong.

*** Some may consider what follows spoilers, but since most of the important plot points happen within the first 15-20 minutes I don't consider them as such. ***

The premise is, indeed, a good one. It is 2002 and Channing Tatum plays Jonathan White, an older rookie cop — he's in his late 20s, maybe 30 — who is following in his late father's footsteps. But he harbors a secret: as a young teen, he killed two men. One he shot in self-defense, the other tripped down a flight of stairs during a struggle, breaking his neck. His father's ex-partner, Charles Stanford (Al Pacino) is assigned to the case, and while he suspects Jonathan's involvement in the deaths he files the incidents as unsolved. Now, 16 years later, someone is sending letters to a journalist saying that the cops covered up two murders in the Queensbridge housing project back in 1986.

This is all well and good as a film outline. The primary problems are in execution: (1) there is very little suspense generated in terms of who is sending the letters — it's not too hard to figure that out, though the director/screenwriter seems to think he's being clever here — and what the consequences would be if the cases were reopened; (2) the pacing is all wrong, jumping back and forth from the past and the present, spending too much time on details that are really unimportant and glossing over those that would have helped clarify the story and create more suspense; (3) tying the present to the aftermath of 9/11, which makes no sense whatsoever … though to be fair this only comes up at the beginning and is never mentioned again; (4) the nonstop moralizing sequence of tired clichιs associated with presumably innocent and/or misunderstood non-white characters and white females portrayed as victims, the not so subtle implication being that evil white men are to blame for what happens to them; and finally, maybe most importantly, (5) what motive does the letter writer have for bringing the issue to light now and not 5, 10, or even 15 years ago?

Almost all of the above are a direct consequence of either the screenplay or direction. And since the director and screenwriter are one and the same, I guess the failure of the film can be put squarely on his shoulders. He seems to have been far too focused on individual elements of the film that were not important to the story to the detriment of the film as a whole. Someone should have stepped up and played devil's advocate with him — Al Pacino, maybe? — challenging him now and then on what was happening while the project was in development and filming.

The actors' performances are, on balance, quite good, especially given the material they had to work with. Of special note is Young Jonathan (Jake Cherry), who is absolutely outstanding in his role here.

I think there is a very good crime thriller that could have been made from this storyline, and the talented cast is certainly capable of delivering, but it simply, and quite unfortunately, didn't happen.


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