Review: Son of No One (Sundance)
PLOT: As a boy, Jonathan was forced to kill two junkies in self-defense. His best friend, Vinny, helped him dispose of the bodies, but they weren't clever enough, and the plot was discovered by Detective Stanford (Al Pacino), who was once Jonathan`s late father`s partner. He covered up the crime, but flash forward fifteen years later. Jonathan (Channing Tatum) is now a cop, with a young family, while Vinny`s (Tracy Jordan) become a shell of his former self. When someone starts leaking details of the cover-up to an ambitious journalist (Juliette Binoche), Jonathan`s got to find the source of the leak before his life is ruined.
REVIEW: SON OF NO ONE broke my heart. Really. The first 80 minutes of this ninety minute film are terrific. SON OF NO ONE is director Dito Montiel`s follow-up to his previous Sundance hit, A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS. This reunites him with actor Channing Tatum, who also starred in Montiel`s studio film, FIGHTING.
Over the last few years, many have criticized Tatum for being a wooden actor, but over the last few films, I`ve felt that Tatum`s been steadily improving as a performer. He was one of the only good things about THE DILEMMA, and some of his upcoming films, like THE EAGLE, look pretty good. Sure enough, Tatum`s pretty damn terrific in SON OF NO ONE, with this being a big leap for him as a performer. Montiel obviously knows how to play to Tatum`s strengths, and his conflicted cop character is the perfect role to take him to the next level as an actor. He has a pretty good range here, with him starting off as a believably light-hearted, doting dad (opposite Katie Holmes as his wife, who`s a tad shrill). Once the proverbial shit hits the fan, he transforms into a guy who can see his life melting away before his eyes. He tries to deal with the problem while still maintaining his own humanity, and it`s a very good performance.
There`s also an interesting co-starring part for Tracy Morgan, in a major departure from his wacky role on 30 ROCK. This is a purely dramatic role as the completely unbalanced Vinny, and he`s damn good. Other significant parts go to Al Pacino, and Ray Liotta, as Tatum's superiors, both of whom were complicit in his youthful cover-up. Pacino plays Pacino, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and he actually underplays the role a bit, until the conclusion, which I'll get to later.
Liotta plays Pacino's successor as the new captain of the Queen's precinct involved in the cover up, and the role isn't much of a stretch, as he plays the same scumbag part he's been playing for years. I think Liotta's got more range than he's been able to demonstrate over the last few years (NARC was a masterpiece), but he plays the oily scumbag part well, so there it is. Finally we get Juliette Binoche, who, it must be said, doesn't belong in this film. She's a classy French actress, and someone a lot gritter, and less European was badly needed for the part.
Other than an overly-melodramatic musical score, and some curious editorial choices, SON OF NO ONE was moving along beautifully up until the conclusion- which all but destroys the film. It's not that it's predictable, badly acted, or anything like that. It's that Montiel, in a shockingly bad editorial decision, decided to put a dozen whiteouts and freeze-frames over the final confrontation, all but ruining the conclusion, which should be powerful. The way it's cut now, it becomes humorous. At first, I thought the projector was broken, but that turned out to be part of the film, and the press audience I saw this with started to chuckle at how clumsy this device is.
This is a real shame, as it truly ruins what had been a damn good film up to that point. Of course, there's an obvious solution to this problem. The ending just needs to be recut, and if that's done, SON OF NO ONE will be a winner. As it stands, I can't give this this the wildly positive review I intended, as the end is such a mess. If it's changed, I'd be happy to revise this review, and I really hope I have cause to somewhere down the line.