'The Son of No One' was one of the selections of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival that didn't fit the Sundance mold whatsoever. There seems to be at least one title each year that lies within the classification of "bad mainstream movies" and not "bad indie movies." Either way, 'The Son of No One' is all around bad.
Channing Tatum plays the central role of Jonathan White, a rookie police officer who has just been assigned to the same Queens precinct where his father once worked – despite it being located two hours from where he, his wife (Katie Holmes) and their young daughter live. Immediately upon being transferred there, since he now patrols the same set of projects that he grew up in, his past begins flooding back. This wouldn't be such a bad thing had someone not started leaking his dark secret to the public.
The film opens in 1986. We see a wasted crackhead going crazy in the stairwell of a cramped ghetto apartment building. He's rambling about someone named "Milk" stealing his gun. These whacked out rants are inter-cut with shots of a kid – who we immediately understand is young Jonathan, then known as "Milk" – wielding a gun and hiding out in a bathroom. When the crackhead comes busting through the door, Milk/Jonathan pulls the trigger and shoots the man dead. This is the secret that Officer White has kept his whole life that is now coming to light.
A small local finger-pointing newspaper has been printing anonymous letters claiming that two people were murdered in 1986 and the precinct couldn't care any less. All of a sudden, Jonathan's skeletons are about to come out of the closet and we, the audience, are left asking, "Who was the second murdered person and how is Jonathan connected to that?" This question carries most of the audience intrigue than "Who's sending the letters?" because we know that two other kids were present when Jonathan shot the crackhead. The letters have to have been sent by one of them, but the movie is so poorly written that Jonathan only assumes that one of the two could be behind it.
I have no idea what it's like to be a police officer in the gritty New York City, but I'm sure tired of watching these police dramas where every cop is crooked and even the seemingly good and honest ones have something terrible tarnishing their past. 'The Son of No One' makes New York City cops out to be that way. Literally, out of an entire precinct, every single officer that we meet is dirty.
The characters in 'The Son of No One' are cliché and typical and it's obvious that director Dito Montiel instructed them to be worse than normal. In one of Tatum's first scenes, he's putting on his uniform, standing in front of the mirror saying to himself, "I'm a cop." He spouts out that line in a way that makes him sound like he's trying to convince both himself and the audience that he's playing a police officer. I may be one of the few people on the planet who don't find Katie Holmes annoying - but I do here. You won't buy her tough-as-nails commanding foul-mouth scenery-chomping character for one second. Ray Liotta and Al Pacino put no effort into their crooked cop characters and Tracy Morgan plays an absurdly stereotypical mentally unstable now-grown-up childhood friend of Jonathan. It's refreshing to see that someone was actually able to get Morgan leashed, but his dramatic performance is laughable.
There's only one audience that I can see 'The Son of No One' appealing to – those who enjoyed other lackluster New York City cop drama 'Brooklyn's Finest,' which also somehow made its way into Sundance. If you find grim detective dramas where every character is a bad person, then you won't mind 'The Son of No One.' But if you're exhausted from filmmakers beating this dead genre-horse, then don't bother.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay has placed 'The Son of No One' on a Region A-locked BD-25 in an eco-friendly blue keepcase. The background of the cover art is half black and half white with a distorted image of Channing Tatum on the line between the two. I imagine this is meant to convey the idea that things are black and white, but that isn't the moral of the movie. Small boxes with images of the supporting actors line the top of the case – because we all know that Tatum isn't enough to carry a film on his own. FBI warnings, vanity reels and trailers play before the main menu, but can be skipped over by pushing the "top menu" button.
'The Son of No One' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer itself is surprisingly decent considering the size of the disc, but there are a few compression flaws.
The majority of the shots in the film are pretty good, but some are absolutely fantastic. The noteworthy ones reveal great detail and clarity. With a consistently clean and clear transfer, sharpness and details are as sharp as they should be. But those great scenes aren't often enough. More often than not, that rich amount of detail is lessened – but not severely.
The director of photography opted for a gritty style over one that preserves strong quality. Despite racking around, shots are typically unfocused. Tatums ears spend more time in focus than his face. This factor never lets up.
Black levels are strong, but a few scenes feature mild compression-caused noise. Another flaw of the BD-25 is a high amount of aliasing. Any time the story takes us to the projects, we see aerial shots of the rooftops. Being the same shot recycled over and over again with different filters applied, aliasing always abounds. Edge enhancement, DNR, banding and artifacts never appear.
Only one English audio track is presented – Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The quality of the audio is more what I was expecting from the video.
The sounds effects in the film and the way in which they're mixed is pretty bad. When Jonathan comes home from work for the first time, from an interior shot of his house, we watch him open the door, walk in, talk to his wife, then close the door. Despite being inside the house, while the door is open, we hear crickets chirping from each channel – as if they were inside the house. The effects are unfittingly mixed. This happens quite often. Imaging isn't even properly mixed. A low-flying helicopter seems to give off sounds that don't match with the location to the screen.
Aside from an overall lack of bass, the vocals aren't bad. But everything – vocals, music and effects – tend to come from the front channels. There's no excuse for the audio being as mild as it is.
'The Son of No One' brings nothing new to the cop drama genre. It's generic and predictable. The source of all the conflict and tension is blatantly obvious to everyone watching the film, but not its central character, who ignorantly avoids it, but we, the audience, aren't that dumb. I haven't seen a movie this utterly forgettable in a long time. The video quality is better than you'd expect from an indie BD-25 – especially considering how out-of-focus the film is. Being mostly forward and filled with bad effects, the audio is what you'd expect, as are the special features. The commentary is boring, and the extended scenes are worthless. This is one Blu-ray that I'd definitely skip.