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The Independent Critic

Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes and Ray Liotta
Dito Montiel
Rated R
95 Mins.
Anchor Bay Entertainment


 "The Son of No One" Review 
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Once in awhile, those fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment show up in the movie theaters with a surprisingly promising flick that, for whatever reason, floated under the radar of the major studios.

Really. I mean, Channing Tatum? Al Pacino? Tracy Morgan? Juliette Binoche? Katie Holmes?

These are performers who often grace the big screen with our major studios and yet, for some reason, they find themselves in this lower-budget indie on the Anchor Bay label.

The problem is that while The Son of No One is a promising flick, it's a film that goes nowhere thanks to the disjointed and disappointing script from writer/director Dino Montiel, whose story idea must've sounded rather intriguing to this talented cast that takes the film much farther than your usual lower budget indie cast likely would have been able.

The events start unfolding in 1986 as a young boy (Jake Cherry) who finds himself being chased by a couple of junkies through a housing project and, in apparent self defense, shoots and kills them both. Vinny (Brian Gilbert), his best friend, is the only witness and the detective who arrives on the scene, Det. Stanford (Al Pacino), just happens to be the boy's godfather and the former partner of the kid's late father.

Life goes on.

Flash forward 16 years and the boy, Jonathan White (Channing Tatum), has become a young man who is now a cop. Anonymous letters are being sent to a local newspaper staffed by a lone employee (Juliette Binoche) advising them of a massive police cover-up related to two murders. This leads to tremendous discomfort for the police commander, Capt. Mathers (Ray Liotta), and family troubles at home with the wife (Katie Holmes). Finally, Jonathan begins to suspect that his estranged childhood friend (now played by Tracy Morgan) must be behind the letters and, in an effort to close the past, he begins to contemplate his options.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Despite decent performances all the way around, even from Channing Tatum and Katie Holmes, and a couple of stand-out performances, from Ray Liotta and Tracy Morgan, The Son of No One is a mostly illogical piece of hyped up drama in which the central crisis doesn't make sense since we were all witness to the younger boy's actions and no darn well that the murder of the two junkies was in self-defense and, thus, the newspaper is more guilty of careless journalism than Jonathan is of any truly dastardly deed.

While Tatum's performance is decent here at times, at least on the Tatum scale, the actor has yet to demonstrate the ability to tap into the more introspective moments of his characters. Mysteriously, he continues to be cast in films that require him to do so. It's even more noticeable of a problem in a film such as this one, when the introspection seems unfounded and illogical. While one could certainly fathom the guilt that a young man might carry for having shot to death two people, self defense or not, it's difficult to impossible to buy into Tatum's massive moral dilemma and Montiel's insistence that somehow this is a conflict with serious, life-long legal implications. To figure out how to pull it off, Tatum need only have looked over at Tracy Morgan, who turns in one of his best dramatic performances as the former best friend whose witnessing of the tragedy led to mental health issues and lifelong struggles. While it's obvious that Montiel and Tatum enjoy working together, having done so on Montiel's first two films Fighting and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, this also means that Montiel should be well aware of Tatum's limitations as an actor.

Oh well.

While Pacino is unquestionably a stronger actor than Tatum, his performance here struggles in much the same way as the actor vacillates between the furious intensity of his Serpico days and the ridiculously over-the-top histrionics of most of his performances in the last 10 years. Both Juliette Binoche and Ray Liotta are surprisingly strong, despite a script that betrays their authenticity at virtually every turn.

While it's Montiel's script that largely destroys any chance the film has to working, his direction is largely disappointing here as well. Montiel too often chooses style over substance, an interesting decision given the trumped of drama of his story and the larger than life way in which its brought to life. Aerial shots of the Queensboro Projects contained heightened drama, yet Montiel never really goes anywhere with this heightened drama.

Saved from the land of the Razzie Awards by a cast that keeps working hard against seemingly insurmountable odds, The Son of No One is likely to experience a quick run through theaters before landing in the usual Anchor Bay arena of home video.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic