The Son of No One

13 Dec

Title: The Son of No One
Year: 2011
Director: Dito Montiel
Writer: Dito Montiel
Starring: Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta
MPAA Rating: R, violence, pervasive language and brief disturbing sexual content
Runtime: 90 min
IMDb Rating: 5.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 18%

I still don’t know how to feel about Channing Tatum. I mean, I feel like I don’t like him because the guy hasn’t been the lead in a single good film to date. Of the ones I’ve reviewed there’s last year’s Dear John (which I gave a C+ to) and this year’s The Dilemma and The Eagle (both of which also got a C+ from me). So yeah, to me he’s always kind of synonymous with a film I don’t think is worth my while, but at the same time, he’s apparently starting to surround himself with talented people as of late (he has two Steven Soderbergh films coming out next year, for crying out loud!) so maybe he’ll turn a corner soon enough.

The Son of No One, however, seriously doesn’t mark that turning-of-the-corner for Mr. Tatum. Director Dito Montiel had worked with Mr. Tatum on both of his other directorial efforts, the first of which was the adaptation of his memoirs, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, which was actually a really strong and well-acted film that showed real promise from the first-time director, and the second one was 2009’s Fighting, which actually had a good lead performance by Mr. Tatum and some really nicely-staged fight scenes but a horrible plot. It’s like it’s all downhill for Mr. Montiel, his debut was well-made and had a strong plot, his second film had a really crappy plot but had some nice technical flourishes, and the third time around he’s given us a film that has a really stupid plot that you can’t follow through and is marred in unnecessary over-stylized bits that just seem like a director who wants to show off, and failing at that.

There are just too many problems with this one, the first of which is that it’s a literal mess, with loose ends hanging everywhere and a really illogical plot trying to hold together a police melodrama that, even though it counts with a couple capable actors, turns into a rather laughable affair quite soon into its ninenty-minute running time. Seriously, you can’t help but feel that Mr. Montiel was just chilling one night at home, and suddenly the miniscule core of a cool idea came up to his mind, and instead of thinking about it further and actually fleshing out that idea, he decided to write a whole screenplay on just the glimpse of that idea, which in turn resulted in a story that just never once seems plausible and goes all over the place.

Because that’s what does The Son of No One in, the fact that the story isn’t compelling in the least, the fact that it’s so badly constructed. Other than that this is actually a film with a lot of good scenes, it’s just that they don’t get even close to adding up to a logical or worthwhile film. Those good scenes are the reason why I won’t fail this movie, because even when this film starts feeling like a drag (even though it’s only ninety minutes long) there are a few individual performances that stand up because of those good scenes, probably the reason why these actors wanted to work with Mr. Motiel in the first place. You have Al Pacino at times seemingly getting close to his Serpico mode, Ray Liotta also going back to his old-school roots, and Juliette Binoche is downright terrific as a crusading reporter. And it’s nice to see these actors give such intense performances and try to make it work, even though their characters are horrible and the scenes never once add up to something resembling a coherent film.

The film is about this young cop, Jonathan, now assigned to a post in his childhood neighborhood just as an old secret is threatening to come up and really alter the life of himself and his family. The thing is that, as a kid, living in a hellhole neighborhood run by drug dealers Jonathan panicked and killed two addicts while his best friend looked on and later vowed to never spill his secret. The detective that was in charge of that case is the character Mr. Pacino plays here, but he had been the police partner of Jonathan’s father so without much fuss he quietly lets the case go cold for years and years, until Ms. Binoche’s character starts receiving anonymous letters indicating the police covered up the crime and threatening to reveal the identity of the guy who did it.

Like I said, this may seem like a pretty cool idea Mr. Montiel had one night, but it’s like he never once thought about actually developing it before committing it to paper and ink. There’s an abundance of holes in the plot, the dialogue is overcooked and, when it’s all said and done and that rooftop scene goes down, you won’t be able to make sense of anything you just saw, and you won’t care to even try to, really. Yes, Mr. Pacino, Mr. Liotta and especially Ms. Binoche try their best, but the material is too bad to overcome even by such talented actors, not to mention that Mr. Tatum is just so incredibly stiff in the lead performance that any salvaging of this film is really out of the question.

Grade: C-

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