Sprouting some good acting from new actors The Son of No One becomes a showcase for their talent. Even with the fine acting however, the movie tends to ramble in the hands of director Dito Montiel. It becomes two films, one about a hopeless child, the other a man who has to come to terms with his unfortunate past.
The film opens with a startling shot of a crazed man going into a rundown neighborhood housing project looking for his gun. Climbing several stairs he busts into an apartment and yelling for his gun, when he enters the bathroom, young Jonathan White (Jake Cherry) shoots the man dead. His friend Vinnie (Brian Gilbert) who witnesses the tragedy helps Jonathan get rid of the body.
Fast forward 17 years and we find White (Channing Tatum) as a patrol policeman just transferred to Queens, the neighborhood in which he grew up. A ‘good’ cop with a lot going for him he gets handed a case that’s being reopened due to the prodding of a Queens’s newspaper reporter Loren Carter (Juliette Binoche). So begins a suspenseful drama that twists and turns right up to the final ‘shot’.
Tatum does a very good job as the patrolman trying to ‘solve’ his own case. If you saw the film Fighting, you get the idea of his ability to play tough yet endearing characters and as Jonathan he accomplishes just that. His opening scene shows this suspicious yet righteous man and slowly you see the reasons. Not having asked for the transfer, Jonathan becomes worried about his duty and when the case is handed to him Tatum takes his character to even a darker place.
But for an excellent performance it’s Jake Cherry as the young Jonathan who finds himself an orphan living in an unsafe ghetto house with his grandmother not knowing when harm will come to him. When a crazy intruder confronts him there’s panic in his face and when the gun goes off he becomes totally frightened.
Another great performance comes from an actor who most know as a consummate comedian Tracy Morgan who plays the grown up Vinnie. Making an amazing transformation into a aimless sole Morgan creates this psychological wreck that’s been living with his past unable to shake witnessing the murder and the sexual abuse from his mother’s boyfriend. It’s an important role and one he handles with ease.
Putting the story together with swings from past to present and back again can be difficult and depends on good acting to carry both time frames. The ‘past’ comes together quite well with Montiel helming the gritty scenes with ease much like his ghetto fist to face actioner Fighting. Gilbert and Cherry are molded nicely into the poverty ridden teens that are trying to survive in their unsafe world. Even Al Pacino as Detective Stanford does a good job as the cop handling the murder case involving Jonathan.
If there is a downside it comes with the present day sequences that tend to be somewhat predictable, trite and lacking in performance value. Although Tatum handles his character well, I am not as happy with Liotta as Captain Marion Mathers or Katie Holmes as the wife of Jonathan White. Both roles looked forced and unrealistic.
The Son of No One is rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief disturbing sexual content. The movie also shows some drug use and a scene of animal abuse.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A powerful story that looses strength in the present day time frame. (C+)