Written by Burhan Wazir, New Media, DFI
Film: The Son of No One
Director: Dito Montiel
Stars: Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, Juliette Binoche, Tracy Morgan
Running time: 90 mins
“The Son of No One”, the new film by director Dito Montiel, who began a very promising career with “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” in 2006, boasts, on paper at least, a talented cast. Veterans such as Al Pacino, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche share screen time with younger actors like Channing Tatum and Katie Holmes. What emerges, however, is a series of occasionally memorable scenes ruined by a flat and sometimes incomprehensible storyline
The film opens in 1986 when a young Jonathan White, played as an adult by Channing Tatum, shoots and kills two drug dealers in an apartment building in New York. As we see it, he fears for his life. His best friend Vinny, played by Tracy Morgan, witnesses the whole scene.
White, however, has a guardian angel – Detective Charles Stanford. He is White’s godfather and was once partner to the young man’s father. Stanford covers up the killings, justice is never meted out. The film reopens in 2002 with White now a police officer in the same area. As he starts work, an anonymous source starts sending letters to a local newspaper, edited by Juliette Binoche. The front page letters claim to know the identity of the police officer who covered up the 1986 killings.
If all this feels a little rushed, please bear in mind that I have only described the first twenty minutes of “The Son of No One”. What follows is that White is tormented by his crimes – he suspects his old friend Vinny is writing the letters. His superior officer, Captain Marion Mathers (Ray Liotta), is reluctant to revisit an old case. White’s wife, played by Katie Holmes, senses her husband is dealing with personal demons.
Throughout “The Son of No One”, I couldn’t help but think that several promising angles were allowed to vanish without pursuit. Why, for instance, would a senior police officer risk his own reputation in covering up the murders – when there was a perfectly justifiable juvenile defense by White? Equally, the film hints at a police force under pressure after the events of September 11, 2001. But again, that is never explored. More baffling is the local community newspaper edited by Binoche. No explanation is offered for the anonymous notes – and why she would publish them without checking their veracity.
If all this sounds risible – it isn’t. The cast and crew acquit themselves well. Ageing lions Liotta and Pacino are on fine form. Katie Holmes is given some moving dialogue. Even Tracy Morgan is able to dampen his manic energy and delivers a muted performance. In the end, though, there simply isn’t enough to hold our attention. Good acting is one thing – flawless storytelling is a greater challenge.