Thursday, April 12, 2012

From the Rental Vault (2011): The Son of No One

Among filmic types, the Sundance Film Festival held every year in Utah and originated by Robert Redford is considered a sort of top-level of independent movie-making. People who have scraped together the money to get a movie made will show it here with the hopes that it will garner a distribution deal. A Sundance film has an aura of quality about it; a movie selected for an opening or closing spot at the festival, you would think, would be one of top quality.

The Son of No One will disabuse you of that notion. Selected to close the 2011 Sundance festival, it is a horribly confused mess that's notable mostly because it features a post-Scent of a Woman Al Pacino role that doesn't involve ranting. Channing Tatum is Jonathan White, a rookie cop in 2002 patrolling an area of Queens where he grew up with his grandmother as one of the few white people in a housing project. Someone is sending anonymous notes to a Queens newspaper that claim police covered up a pair of 1986 murders and White may have a closer connection to the crime than he would like his fellow officers to know. In addition to Tatum and Pacino, The Son of No One also wastes Ray Liotta as White's precinct commander, Katie Holmes as his wife, Juliette Binoche as the newspaper editor and Tracy Morgan as his childhood friend Vinny.

The ending makes no sense -- I won't spoil it but even if I did all you would do would be to say, "That makes no sense." The movie visually captures some of the seediness of 1986 Queens and the high tensions of post 9/11 New York City but that's about all that can be said for it. The sound mix is very muted, perhaps to lend some atmosphere that matches the moral confusion White faces. But whether that's the reason or not, nearly everyone in the movie is almost impossible to hear or understand, with dialogue too often turned down to a mumble. I started out watching this on my iPad with earphones but couldn't understand more than half of what Tatum was saying so I switched to the regular DVD and it didn't get any better.

Of course, when I turned it up loud enough to hear what everyone was saying it didn't get any better, either.

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