Thursday, December 1, 2011

Son of No One - When The Past Haunts You

It was 1986. Milk (Jake Cherry) didn’t have it easy. He lives in the Queensboro Projects with a negligent grandmother who’s left him to his own devices. At 14, Milk faces the elements of living in a rough neighborhood alongside his only friend Vinnie. In a couple of bizarre events, Milk shoots a junkie who charges towards him. In another, he pushes a bully down the stairs. Both incidents have been left “cold cases” (a scene of a crime or an accident that has not yet been solved to the full and is not the subject of a recent criminal investigation). Milk and Vincent have pledged to keep it a secret.

Fast forward to 2002. It’s been 16 years. Jonathan White aka Milk (Channing Tatum), has cleaned his slate. With his sordid past behind him, he is starting out as a rookie cop at 30 – at the same precinct 118 where his father used to work before he perished. Jonathan has a wife (Katie Holmes) and a child. His partner Tom (James Ransome) isn’t as forthcoming. His boss, Captain Mathers (Ray Liotta) is trying to clean up their New York neighborhood; a move set to improve the image of NYPD.

Just as he was settling into his job, he starts getting anonymous letters alluding to the unsolved murders sixteen years ago. What’s more, an assiduous tabloid writer Lauren Bridges (Juliette Binoche) is blazing her headlines with police cover ups masterminded by Mathers’ predecessor, Detective Stanford (Al Pacino) who happens to be a colleague of Milk’s father. The same anonymous letter sender has been providing Bridges with a series of alleged exposes that find their way at the headlines of Queens Gazette! Who has been feeding these exposes to Bridges? Will Stanford be convicted for the cover up? What happens to Jonathan’s rally for a new life? Will he drag his family down his sketchy past?

Director Dito Montiel ("Fighting", "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints") weaves a tale that challenges the morality of redemption and starting over. And one can't help but sympathize with characters like Jonathan's who has been handed a new lease in life only to be pulled down by a past he has no control of. Channing Tatum has been Montiel's leading actor in all his earlier flicks (this is his 3rd). Though Tatum isn't awful, he is no master thespian. In some scenes, he manages a perfunctory performance, but his scenes with Katie Holmes who portrays his wife Kerry (she's clueless of his past) feel a little underwhelming, as though this disconnect translates to their relationship. You would doubt the veracity of their union from the way they interact with each other.

What surprised me was finding a couple of actors: first, comedian Tracy Morgan has been cast against type. He plays Jonathan's friend, Vincent who eventually grew up in a mental institution. He'd walk around with blunt affect and a heavily medicated demeanor; a far cry from his rousing stand up acts from his 8 seasons of "Saturday Night Live" and the NBC series "30 Rock". If you didn't know he was a veteran comic, you would never believe he was one if you see him here. The other personality is James Ransome, one of the pubescent cast of Larry Clark's controversial "Ken Park" (2002) which has been banned by several countries (like Australia) for its gratuitous sexual content. I didn't realize it was possible to rise from such debacle, but then if Maricar Reyes became a legitimate actress from her past indiscretions, I guess anything's possible. Though Ransome's part is decidedly sparse (in comparison to his co-stars), this will show Ransome in a new light since I'm not familiar with the TV series he's appeared in ("The Wire", "Generation Kill", "Treme").

Juliette Binoche, the damsel in romantic distress in "The English Patient" (one of my all time favorites), does a mean tabloid journalist (the relentless and, at times, oppressive Lauren Bridges), though it makes me sad seeing her deglamorized. She will forever be the dreamy Hana from that Anthony Minghella masterpiece.

When your past haunts you like the plague, do we scoot away like dogs with tails between our legs? Or do we face them head on at the risk of losing things we've worked so hard for?

It's a moral call.

Channing Tatum plays Jonathan White aka "Milk", a 30 year old rookie.

Channing Tatum has some 8 film projects in different stages of production including "G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation" and a film version of "21 Jump Street" with Johnny Depp. He'll be seen next in Jamie Linden's "Ten Year" about a reunion 10 years after a class' graduation.

Al Pacino has several film projects in the works including "King Lear" and Barry Levinson's "Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father" (with John Travolta). He will play Herod in Luis Mandoki's "Mary Mother of Christ" with Camilla Belle playing Mary.

Ray Liotta will be seen in several projects including "Wanderlust" with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.

Katie Holmes is paired alongside Adam Sandler in James Dugan's "Jack and Jill" - a Victor/Victoria comedy that also stars Al Pacino. In the film, Sandler plays a successful businessman Jack and his passive aggressive twin Jill.

Katie Holmes

Juliette Binoche will play a character named Didi in David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" with that vaguely familiar actor named Robert Pattinson.

Tracy Morgan plays Vince Carter, Jonathan's childhood pal. The comedian tries a different genre.

James Ransome plays Officer Thomas Prudenti, Jonathan's partner at the precinct

James Ransome in Larry Clark's explicit "Ken Park". Guess what he's doing here?

James Ransome

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