director: Dito Montiel
writer: Dito Montiel
starring: Channing Tatum, James Ransone, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta and Al Pacino
genre: Crime | Drama
released: November 4, 2011 (U.S.)
As with most cop films. It doesn't matter who you put in them to act. It could be Val Kilmer, De Niro or even Pacino. Most likely they will end up to be predicable and untruthful trash such as "Streets of Blood" and "Righteous Kill". Forgotten completely for their misunderstanding of the genre, overuse of twists and the fact that A-List actors can also make A-Grade bonehead decisions. "The Son of No One" was almost close to that grouping of films, but saved by a small margin for it's youth crime plot, use of flashback and strong supporting cast.
Two young kids in the ghetto get involved in a series of crimes. The police's original neglect in the crimes. Has now 16 years later brought it all right back to the forefront. Due to mysterious letters being sent to a local N.Y. journalist. The local police precinct having sniffed out the situation. Acts fast to take control before the truth gets out. Putting young cop Jonathan White (Channing Tatum) front and center of the situation. Slowly making the audience realize that he himself is connected to the series of crimes that happened 16 odd years ago and no one knows which direction he will take.
The best thing about this film is its flashback/origin material of the young kid called Milk. The reason why I like it so much. Is because its something completely different to the usual cop stories we are told. Usually it's always about a secret plot of corruption or a crime lord who has too much power. To a certain extent this film does follow the corruption angle, but at a deeper level of a child's loss of innocence, the dangers they face in the ghetto and how police are really nowhere to be found in these impoverished areas.
Also the child actors that were playing the two child leads are astonishing in their portrayals. Whenever they are on screen they are commanding with their performances. Portraying bravery, contempt and fear perfectly. Moreover lead protagonist Tatum and the usual supporting players of Holmes, Liotta, Binoche, Pacino and Ransone also do serviceable jobs in selling the corruption and ill will of the people who are in the thick of it. I also thought Tracy Morgan did a fine job in his role as one of the kids grown up. Comedians get flack sometimes and especially Morgan for their dramatic endeavors. But for this role you cant blame him one bit.
Putting aside the performances and flashback material. What puts down the film is the classic interest in the makers of these films in creating a corruption/cover up story that we've seen countless of times before. The bigger problem then that, was that it wasn't orchestrated very well and in the end not particularly interesting. The red herrings and false flags can be put to question many times within the film and its highly debatable if the film needed to end with the cliched use of a Mexican standoff/shoot out scene.
"The Son of No One" happens to be better than most other cop films, but not by a long shot. Its use of flashback, great child actors and origin story for one of the characters adds to the film some diversity. Though, if the filmmakers could have figured out a better way to doll out the information of the mystery, spice up the material of the police corruption that was very off hand at times and let the film be more intelligent by withholding cliches of the genre. We would possibly be then talking about a thoughtful cop drama on par with other films such as "Brooklyn's Finest". Still if you've got time to spare I wouldn't say checking out this film will be a complete waste of time.