I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Son of No One

tn_sonofnooneTHE SON OF NO ONE is the new one from Dito Montiel, who got onto my radar thanks to the unexpectedly interesting FIGHTING. This one also stars Channing Tatum, this time as a rookie NYC cop. Katie Holmes plays his wife. Al Pacino plays his cop dad’s partner. Ray Liotta plays his boss. Tracy Morgan plays his mentally disturbed childhood best friend. Juliette Binoche plays a reporter for a leftie weekly who seems poised to ruin his life by exposing a secret from his past. How the hell did I never hear about this movie until the day before it came out DTV?

Oh yeah, for the obvious reason. It’s not very good. But I’ll put it in the respectable try column if I ever start using a column-based system for categorizing movies, and if I remember this movie at that point, which seems doubtful, but you never know.

The gritty-cop-drama-co-starring-Ray-Liotta is a well-worn genre, it would be hard to really reinvent it. This one at least has an unusual story to it. The secret he’s trying to hide is not something he did as a cop, it happened when he was 13 or 14 years old living in the Queensboro housing projectswith his senile grandmother. He shot a crackhead (Roger Guenveur Smith, MERCENARY OF JUSTICE) in self defense. Anonymous letters have been arriving at BInoche’s paper saying that two people were murdered in the Queensboro projects in 1986 and it was covered up by the police. Childhood flashbacks are spread across the movie, so there’s some suspense about who the second dead body is gonna be in addition to how Tatum is gonna find out who’s sending these letters and if he can put out this fire without getting burned. (in this case burned is a metaphor for ruining his life or for doing more horrible things he’ll have to live with.)

mp_sonofnooneIt feels like it could’ve been adapted from a novel. It brushes against lots of subjects: white kids growing up as a minority in the projects, the elevated reputation of police after 9-11, sexual abuse, mental hospitals, punk rock (would a could really have a poster for the band Millions of Dead Cops if his dad was a dead cop?), plus the ol’ loyalty of childhood friends, brotherhood among cops, wives not understanding your dangerous life, etc. But few if any of these topics are covered with enough precision to have much power. Like there’s stuff missing, like if there was a book it would’ve worked better in the book.

I kind of like Tatum, but I don’t think he’s good enough in this to win over the people who don’t. He’s pretty close to his usual mumbling self, just with a mustache. I do admire that he has the balls to sport a real, not fully grown-in mustache in a movie. I doubt this was intended but I thought it made alot of sense for a 30-year-old rookie struggling to fit into a culture where he doesn’t really belong.

Liotta is as great as usual, but I think it’s kind of a mistake putting him in these movies at this point. He’s so good at playing a guy who actually cares and really believes in something but you can never enjoy him having somebody’s back or being the voice of reason because you assume he’s gonna actually betray them. And even if he doesn’t you spent so much time expecting it that you didn’t get to appreciate him not being that.

Morgan’s part is small and a little distracting because of his comedy persona, but he does fine as a distant, non-joking character. The kid who plays the young version of him is actually really good – the young Tatum, on the other hand, just doesn’t seem like the same guy at all. He talks too much and enunciates too well. Not his fault, but it’s somebody’s.

There are some interesting things here, but the story is kind of muddled, nothing really comes together exactly right. FIGHTING was cool because it’s this well-worm HARD TIMES or LIONHEART type street fighting story filtered through an unexpected indie drama style and populated with odd characters. SON OF NO ONE tries to do too many things and can’t really follow through without a skeleton like that holding it straight.

I’m not giving up on this director though. His next one is an armored car robbery movie starring The Rock.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012 at 6:51 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

15 Responses to “The Son of No One”

  1. isn’t it kind of sad how Ray Liotta only does DTV movies these days?

  2. Griff – Shit, what happened to Al Pacino?

    Vern – you going to review 21 JUMP STREET?

  3. caruso_stalker217

    March 12th, 2012 at 3:15 am

    While I haven’t been able to get behind Tatum as a leading man type, I still think he was the funniest and best thing about THE DILEMMA. I think he’s pretty effective when it comes to the comedy, so maybe he can put that to use in the 21 JUMP STREET movie.

  4. Ever since Pacino started to look like Wayne Newton he’s been…how can I put this…uninteresting as an actor too.

  5. Tatum was the only thing in THE DILEMA that was remotely… well, anything. That movie was just nothing.

    I though Pacino was going through a bit of a critical revival after that Jack Kevorkian thing (which I haven’t seen yet)? Aside from a predictable Razzie slam he even seemed to get pretty good notices for JACK AND JILL…perhaps too generous in fact (sadly, I have seen that)

  6. Jareth Cutestory

    March 12th, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Tatum was my favorite human puching bag in HAYWIRE. When you consider how little time the audience had at the beginning of that movie to decide that it was going to enjoy Tatum’s beatdown, or to at least side with Carano (though I think Soderburgh intended this to be a bit ambiguous, at least at first), I think it demonstrates a certain talent on Tatum’s part to communicate his character’s unlikable traits so economically.

  7. Tatum definitely belongs in comedy. Sorry, but the guy just looks dumb (which is why he was so funny in The Dilemma). I really don’t like him as a leading man, and movies like Dear John sure don’t help to change my opinion of him (haven’t seen Fighting yet).

    Ten years ago we had Chris Klein, now we have Tatum. Klein was hilarious in Election, but then he tried becoming a “serious” actor and now his career is pretty much dead (he was awesome in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, though).

    I think 21 Jump Street is a smart career move for him.

  8. Klein remains hilarious on WILFRED. He’s one of those guys who had to wait for his leading-man looks to fade a little before he could find his place as a scene-stealing character actor. He’s sort of the Rob Lowe of his generation.

  9. I can’t remember Pacino doing anything good since Angels In America. He gave everything in that film, unfortunately it seem it was all he got left.

  10. I forgot that he was okay in The Merchant of Venice, but he didn’t really do much new in that film. And he was okay phoning it in, in Ocean’s 13.

  11. I had no clue The Dilemma was a comedy. I don’t remember laughing much during it.

  12. I thought “Fighting” was very enjoyable. It breaks no new ground, but it’s a lot of fun, and I really thought the role worked for Tatum. He’s kind of playing the Jon Voight “Midnight Cowboy” role, so it doesn’t to anything to change the view of him as a big, dumb jock, but I thought the movie was a lot of fun.

  13. Looking forward to at least checking this one out. I’ve liked most of Tatums roles unapologetically, haven’t seen the more smarmy stuff like Dear John or The Vow. I’m also a big Ray Liotta fan, so them paired up should be fun for me at least.

    Fighting was pretty good. I had a lot of fun with GI Joe. I liked him in Haywire quite a bit. Step Up is awesome but I’ve talked about that plenty on here already. And I’m quite excited to see him in the Magic Mike.

  14. Put Rampart on your to watch list for next time you need a crimetime cop flick. Woody Harrelson is seriously awesome as a bad cop with a heart of gold in late 90’s L.A. Well no, he doesn’t have a heart of gold, he’s straight up doing bad things mostly all the time, but he’s not alllll the way to the dark side.

    It’s a James Ellroy screenplay if that entices you any. Ned Beatty, and Ice Cube’s in it too, and so is Ripley. She’s Harrelson’s boss. Bunch of good actors. Ben Foster has a small part that he must have cast himself in seeing as he’s a producer.

  15. I second RAMPART. Harrelson is awesome and Moverman is one to watch. THE MESSENGER even better.

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