Heretofore well-armed writer-director Dito Montiel shoots mostly blanks in the hokey cop meller “The Son of No One,” whose half-dozen stars amazingly emerge unscathed. As in the auteur’s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” an emotionally wounded man (here played by Montiel regular Channing Tatum) struggles to overcome the pain of his mid-’80s childhood in working-class New York. But in this case, Montiel’s awkward appropriation of gritty crime-drama conventions results in a film that’s contrived and implausible, at times absurdly so. Name talent assures “Son” will be adopted by a distrib, though it’s unlikely reviews or grosses will pack heat.
Featuring Ray Liotta and Al Pacino as high-ranking cops, Katie Holmes and Juliette Binoche as stressed-out femmes in the line of fire, and Tracy Morgan as a mute Queens rooftop-dweller, the pic’s wildly eccentric ensemble acquits itself through perfs that are vastly more concentrated than the script demands. Still, one can’t help feeling that a set of campy, tongue-in-cheek turns would’ve better served the silly pic, wherein Tatum’s rookie officer is wracked with guilt over having snuffed a pair of menacing junkies in the Queensborough projects when he was a wee middle-schooler.
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Alternating none too nimbly between 1986 and 2002, the film reveals that young Jonathan White (Jake Cherry) was privately let off the hook by Det. Stanford (Pacino), his dead dad’s former partner, but that anonymous tips sent to a Queens reporter (Binoche) threaten to implicate the grown White (Tatum) as well as Stanford, who’s acting as Deputy Commissioner until White’s boss, Capt. Mathers (Liotta), takes over. Why Binoche’s journalist works overtime chasing clues to a 16-year-old mystery involving two dead junkies isn’t clear; nor are many of the other details in Montiel’s ineptly organized screenplay.
Living in Staten Island with his wife (Holmes) and epileptic daughter, White — known as “Milk” when he was a kid — becomes increasingly unglued, but never compellingly so. Montiel seems to want to link his tale of unchecked law-and-order to post-9/11 New York, but the pic’s location shooting depicts a curiously underpopulated city where, for example, Binoche’s lone-wolf scribe represents the entire media. The movie’s rooftop climax, straining to channel “The Departed,” is made borderline laughable through a succession of fades to white, apparently there to disguise the fact that Montiel hasn’t mapped the action in any coherent way.
End credits state that the film is based on “The Story of Milk,” an evidently unpublished novel by Montiel.