I’m not sure what motivated Al Pacino to take a supporting role in the police drama The Son of No One, but his participation is the main reason to check the film out. Channing Tatum stars as rookie cop Jonathan White, a family man with a dark past. As seen in flashbacks to 1986, the young White (played by Jake Cherry, who turns in the film’s best performance) was responsible for the death of two men. While the teenager arguably had just cause for both killings, Detective Stanford (Pacino) decides to sweep them under the carpet. Stanford’s partner was the kid’s deceased father, so he believes that keeping the deaths a secret would be best for everyone. Now that White is a thirty-year-old police officer, his secrets are coming back to haunt him.
For a movie being sold as a suspense thriller, The Son of No One seriously lacks tension and excitement. The flashbacks are actually more interesting than White’s adult life. His wife, played by Katie Holmes, seems upset but strangely non-inquisitive as she begins receiving strange, threatening phone calls at home. Police Captain Mathers (Ray Liotta) is the one making these ominous calls, dropping hints that he knows everything about White’s past. That’s not a spoiler, by the way. One might think writer-director Dito Montiel would want to keep this bit of info under wraps for a big reveal. Not that we haven’t seen this scenario before; the insider who conspires against one of his own men. But when we hear the unmistakable voice of Liotta over the phone, the caller’s identity is no surprise.
The driving force of the plot is White’s attempt to figure out who has been sending him a series of handwritten notes. Reminiscent of I Know What You Did Last Summer, the notes are variations on the theme, “I know what you did all those years ago.” He suspects his childhood friend, an former prostitute played as an adult by Tracy Morgan. Initially I was interested in seeing the former SNL cast member in a dramatic role, but Morgan only has three nearly mute scenes. Also in the mix is a reporter (Juliette Binoche) who is trying to piece together the 1986 cover-up, much to the concern of all cops involved.
The main selling point is the cast, even though no one really has much to work with in this turgid, plodding story. Despite his considerable skill as an actor, it’s no surprise to see Liotta turn up here as he appears in upwards of a half-dozen direct-to-video features a year. He pretty much phones this one in. Channing Tatum projects a dark intensity that suits his character, but again he is let down by a script that didn’t fully flesh out his adult motivations. Pacino has a fair amount of screen time, so if you’re a rabid fan this is worth a look. He brings his usual authority to the role, but this isn’t likely to be seen by anyone as a highlight in his filmography.
The Son of No One has been given a perfectly solid Blu-ray presentation by Anchor Bay. The 1080p transfer is framed at 2.35:1 and looks crystal clear. I’m not sure why filmmakers choose to shoot films in 2.35:1 that are almost certainly destined to bypass theaters. The screen-filling 1.85:1 aspect ratio is much more satisfying, but whatever. Fine detail is readily apparent throughout, especially during outdoor daytime scenes where no amount of make-up can hide the deep lines on Pacino’s face. Arial shots of the Queensbridge housing project, with its distinctively shaped buildings, are stunningly crisp. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is subtle, which is not a criticism. This is a quiet movie – even the dialogue is often whispered. Occasionally raucous, gunfire-peppered scenes provide a nice contrast to the otherwise uneventful soundscape. LFE activity is minimal, while the surround channels remain quietly busy with traffic noise and other ambiance.
Supplemental features are minimal for The Son of No One. An audio commentary with writer-director Dito Montiel and the film’s executive producer and editor, Jake Punishsky, is the main attraction. A six minute reel of extended scenes adds absolutely nothing to the overall experience. Beyond that, the only other extra is the film’s trailer. It’s hard to imagine anyone really wanting to delve into any extras after the dull experience of watching the main feature.