Sundance Video Review: Son Of No One Closes Fest With A Whimper

By Katey Rich 2011-01-29 10:00:08discussion comments
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Sure, it's an honor to be chosen as the Closing Night film at Sundance, but it can be a pretty dubious distinction, since by the time the second Friday rolls around half the press corps has left and the amount of buzz will be considerably reduced. When you have a bad movie, of course, that's actually a good thing, so you can see why we were skeptical as we walked into tonight's premiere screening of Son of No One. Held at the trusty and gigantic Eccles Theater, the premiere filled up fast and even got a little chaotic when stars Channing Tatum and Katie Holmes entered through a side door and got barraged by autograph-seekers. And I have to hand it to them-- the crowd stayed remarkably steady through the film, unlike the reports of mass walkouts during the film's press screening earlier this week.

But Son of No One isn't just a bizarre choice for Sundance, a festival that at least tries to support the off-kilter and unusual in American filmmaking, it was a bummer of a closing night film, an utter mess that also dragged through its plot and manages to make its audience not care at all about two murders committed by a child. Tatum, who is Montiel's muse and quite possibly his patron saint, stars as a New York City cop still getting over growing up in the projects, then suddenly entangled in a blackmail scheme revolving around his past misdeeds and the corruption of the entire police force he's joined. You can tick off the cop movie cliches that come next: his father was a cop killed in action; his dad's old partner (Al Pacino) is-- I'm not joking-- his godfather, but also a little corrupt; his boss at the precinct (Ray Liotta) wants to protect the reputation of the boys in blue above all; his wife (Katie Holmes) just doesn't get why he's looking so haunted these days. There's no cliche to explain the presence of Juliette Binoche as a Queens newspaper editor, unless you go back to the grand tradition of terrible miscasting in cop movies.

To give him credit Dito Montiel is making movies from a fairly unique perspective, having grown up in poverty in New York City and knowing these street life antics better than most. But his penchant for hammy dialogue and plots that plod forward as if on a death march makes his movies feel dishonest all the same; yes it's kind of interesting that Tatum's characters has moved all the way to Staten Island only to work at his father's old Queens precinct, but it still doesn't make that much sense. And any number of random plot threads-- Tatum's child who suffers seizures, Tracy Morgan as a childhood friend who isn't just schizophrenic but gay--could have been excised to more clearly expose the central narrative, but then again, it's not that compelling a narrative anyway.

But don't just take my word for it-- shortly after the screening Matt Patches and I gathered under an aptly sinister streetlight and talked about the movie, with the intrepid Ed Douglas of Coming Soon holding the camera and making faces behind it. Check out what we both thought while standing in a snowbank-- Park City verite, I'm telling you-- and check back for at least another video blog or two as this year's Sundance film festival, sadly, comes to a close.


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