Movie Review: “The Son of No One”

Three films into a critically dismissed, audience ignoring movie making career, it is becoming clearer why top drawer actors, from Robert Downey Jr. to Al Pacino, Diane Wiest to Chaz Palminteri flock to Dito Montiel’s movies.

And no, it doesn’t involve compromising photographs and blackmail.

Montiel, of “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” “Fighting” and “The Son of No One,” writes gritty urban melodramas with big, showy scenes and speeches. Movie stars just eat that up.

“Son of No One,” about a cop covering up a dark day from his distant past and the code among cops that helps him do it, drew  Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan and Oscar winners Pacino and Juliette Binoche.  And every one of them gets a big Dito Montiel speech.

For Pacino, playing a retired detective trying to explain that past to the young Officer White (Channing Tatum), the big speech starts with “A man has to learn to live with his s—.” For Binoche, bizarrely cast  as a solitary newspaper columnist investing an unsolved and un-investigated pair of murders from the ’80s, the speech that lured her begins, “If this were a movie, Mr. White, I would say you looked like you saw a ghost.”

As a child, White, nicknamed “Milk” by his pal Vin, killed somebody. He and Vin covered it up. Now, decades later, White is on edge over a small newspaper’s investigation, getting blackmail notes about the killing and wondering if they’re coming from Vin (Tracy Morgan).

Ray Liotta gives a mysterious side to the Staten Island precinct captain who may be sympathetic or may be looking for a scapegoat to make all this bad press go away. Katie Holmes is the young cop’s wife, kept in the dark by a husband with a guilty conscience.

It’s all very messy and entirely too obvious at the same time. Montiel makes the most of his settings, but the story keeps staggering into dead ends. And for all the casting coups he managed, making Binoche a paranoid, obsessed and plainly “Not from around here” journalist may be the worst move of her illustrious career.

But at least she gets her big scene and her big speech. With Montiel, that’s the bargain you make.

MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive language and brief disturbing sexual content

Cast: Channing Tatum, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan.

Credits: Written and directed by Dito Montiel, an Anchor Bay release. Running time: 1:34

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