The Son of No One is a strangely bland tale that attempts to be somewhat of a police procedural, but is never quite able to reach even those heights. The strange part of it is that the film has an interesting story at its heart, but the writer/director, Dito Montiel, seems to have no idea how to bring it together and make it interesting. It is this poorly-written screenplay that ends up being the film’s biggest weakness, for when your foundation is not steady, of course the film is going to suffer immensely.
It tells the story of a cop, Jonathan White (Channing Tatum), who has recently been transferred to the same precinct where his father used to work. The precinct has recently been reading reports from a newspaper, run by Loren Bridges (Juliette Binoche), that has featured letters saying that the police covered up a pair of murders in 1986. During this story, we witness flashbacks featuring young Jonathan (Jake Cherry) and his friend Vinnie (Brian Gilbert) where we discover very early on that it was Jonathan who committed one murder by shooting a drug dealer in self-defense and accidentally killing another by pushing him down some steps.The crimes are covered up by Jonathan’s father’s former partner, Detective Stanford (Al Pacino), and nothing is ever done about them.
Back in present day, which for this film is 2002, the letters continue to be published, causing problems for the precinct, headed by Captain Mather (Ray Liotta). This eventually escalates into Jonathan and his wife Kerry (Katie Holmes) receiving eerie phonecalls regarding what happened in 1986. The rest of the film has Jonathan trying to figure out who could be writing these letters, but he only knows of one person who knows what happened, and they swore they would never tell anyone.
A story about a mysterious person threatening to expose a crime of the past does seem like an interesting premise, but not when the film is structured in such a bland manner. We’re forced to jump back and forth between these two time periods, with neither story developing very far, so it becomes quite difficult to care about what’s happening in either of them.
The present day story doesn’t have much going on in it except Jonathan very slowly looking into who could be trying to expose him. He, like all of the characters here, don’t go through any development, therefore remaining flat, one-note caricatures instead of fully-formed characters. This remains true as we flash back to 1986 where all we have to look forward to is how the second murder comes to be, seeing as how the first one happens almost immediately. There just didn’t seem to be any reason to spend that much time in the past given that not much of importance happens in that period other than the two murders and the coverup. All of that extra time could have been spent developing the characters in the present day period instead.
The Son of No One features quite an interesting cast. One thing that spelled doom for the project early on was the unwise decision to cast the blank-faced Channing Tatum in the starring role. He has merely continued to prove that he has no business being an actor, and yet he continues to show up in many roles. Oscar winner Al Pacino plays a small part that has him giving a speech nearly every time he shows up on screen, while Ray Liotta, who hasn’t had a really great role since Goodfellas, seems to be around just to lecture Jonathan. These two could have used a lot more screentime given that the film was in desperate need of a better actor to take over the story.
Then again, it’s hard to believe that any actor could have saved this screenplay. Aside from being poorly structured, it comes down to a senseless ending that feels as though Montiel just gave up. After this senseless ending, the story just kind of ends, despite nothing really being resolved. This is particularly annoying because after the film ends, you realize you’ve been watching two stories that were going nowhere and have come to nothing, and despite the film only running about 90 minutes, you feel like you’ve wasted much more time.
Looking at the Blu-Ray itself, the film is presented in a sharp 2.35:1 transfer that allows everything in the picture to come through clearly. The audio is crisp, allowing the dialogue, score, and sound effects to come through loud and clear.
The special features are incredibly limited. All that’s included are a commentary track from writer/director/producer Dito Montiel and executive producer/editor Jake Pushinsky, three “extended” scenes, and the theatrical trailer. A sampling of the commentary track shows that Montiel and Pushinsky merely talk about what’s on screen. What’s ironic about it is that, at one point, one of them exclaims that they hope they are not as boring as they sound, so even they knew they weren’t saying anything interesting.
The “extended” scenes were an unusual inclusion. The first of the three scenes has a little bit of extended material, but is only some extra rambling from the drug dealer that Jonathan ends up shooting early on in the flashbacks, making it completely irrelevant to the film. The other two scenes that claim to be extended aren’t extended at all and play out as they did in the film.
Overall, The Son of No One is not worth your time for either the movie itself or the limited and weak special features. Its poorly-written script and lousy lead performance don’t even warrant a rental. It’s just a shame that Al Pacino, Ray Liotta, and Juliette Binoche all had to get mixed up in this. In the end, the biggest mystery of the film is why all three of them ended up getting involved in the first place.