Here’s one for you: in a precinct full of corrupt cops, it’s the one good cop whose past comes back to haunt him. Huh!
Jonathan White [Channing Tatum] is a rookie cop recently reassigned to the 118th Precinct. His partner [James Ransone] is a racist @$$hole; his commander [Ray Liotta] is a racist, corrupt jerk who’s bucking for a promotion; his wife Kerry [Katie Holmes] is, apparently, completely untrustworthy, and his daughter [Ursula Parker] is both incredibly cute and suffers seizures caused by an unnamed disease.
The 118th is in the worst part of Queens – where he grew up and, in self-defense, killed a junkie and accidentally killed an abusive guy who had just kicked his dog. The detective investigating the two deaths [Al Pacino], being Jonathan’s godfather – and partner of his late father – covered up that fact. Now someone is sending scrawled notes to the Queens Gazette – run by a crusading editor [Juliette Binoche] – demanding justice for the deaths.
No one other than Jonathan and his best friend, Vinny, knows what happened – and Vinny swore he’d never tell. Vinny, by the way, spent time in mental health hospitals. He heard voices – but the doctors kept him so drugged up that he couldn’t speak intelligibly if he wanted to. Tracy Morgan is astonishingly good as Vinny, and Brian Gilbert matches him as young Vinny.
Here’s the problem: despite being beautifully shot and peppered with some excellent performances, The Son of No One moves, herky-jerky, to a surprise conclusion that is in no way, shape or form sensible. There are no clues that even begin to suggest the remotest possibility that all the hubbub is being caused by the person who turns out behind it.
Seriously, Channing Tatum and Katie Holmes are actually decent in the roles of the Whites – but Jonathan never confides in Kerry so she spends most of the movie yelling at him because she doesn’t know what’s going on.
Pacino gives the most understated, unhammy performance he’s given in years; Liotta is less over-the-top than usual, and Binoche brings a slow burn to her character that says the fires of her crusade for truth may be down to embers, but she’s not giving it up any time soon. Brian Cherry is also extremely good as young Jonathan – who’s nicknamed Milk, apparently because he’s the only white kid in his building.
Writer/Director Dino Montiel not only gets good performances from his cast, he has a real eye for shot making. It’s a shame that his writing – and the film’s editing – are not up to those levels. In the end, even though individual scenes and all the performances range from good to brilliant, The Son of No One just doesn’t cut it as a movie. In this case, the parts are less than the whole.
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