Son of No One paints a grim picture of post 9/11 NYPD. The lockers are littered with graffiti, they’re run down, dimly lit, and everyone speaks with hard F-bombs. Never mind the general disrespect, since Son of No One portrays them as idiots.
It’s hard to imagine there’s any credibility in these images when street cops put two street brawlers together in the back of the same squad car, and uncuffed. Because, clearly, that situation will alleviate itself on the way to the station. Once there, they begin treating suspects like animals, letting them fight for their own amusement, until a Captain steps in if only to prevent murder. Marion Mathers (Ray Liotta) seems to take in as much joy from the rumble as everyone else.
Even the gist of the film, someone writing letters to a reporter about two unsolved murders back in the ’80s is littered with stupidity. No one has the good sense to fingerprint the notes, and instead, what unravels is endless questions, suspects, and death. All of this because the identity of the writer isn’t known, yet it could have been in a matter of minutes.
Son of No One is almost effortlessly stupid, so naïve about its own ignorance that it drives along as if there’s nothing wrong. Dramatic musical cues ratchet up non-tension, and character back stories qualify as nothing short of drivel. One wonders why there’s even a loose 9/11 connection, as if it adds anything to the dramatic weight.
Internal conflict becomes the sole narrative punch, Johnathan White (Channing Tatum) forever living in guilt from his upbringing in the projects. He was the killer, inadvertently as those murders may have been back when he was 12-ish. Yet, despite knowing the witnesses, he only bothers to question one of them. There wouldn’t be a movie if asked both, but then again, there’s not much of one here anyway.
Anchor Bay dishes out a pleasing encode of a clean film source, so at the very least, this cop drama has something going for it. A grain structure is in place, resolved with a general purity and natural texture. There’s never a sense this isn’t film, even as the focus seems to shift wildly during certain scenes. Even then, grain remains grain-like, never noisy or mushy.
Preserving the film stock means preserving the high-fidelity detail that goes along with it. Close-ups are intricate and refined, pleasing to view in HD. Facial definition is extreme if a little on the inconsistent side. Again, that shifting focus makes things a little wonky in spots. Those instances are few, and Son of No One is generally a sharply appealing stunner.
Aiding the look are rich black levels, which even in the darkest environments still produce necessary depth. They never lose their grip, adding the all-important dimensionality to a disc that is pouring it on. A rich contrast situates itself on the other side, especially dominating during some exteriors. Aside from irritating flicker during some aerials, said scenes outdoors are immense.
This cold, sometimes lifeless color palette isn’t terribly distracting. If anything, holding back on the flesh tones, warming them up only in specific circumstances, benefits the pale narrative. Nothing here swerves into a generic realm; merely realistic with a little life sapped out of it.
Nothing gives this mix any energy, so basic and droll it’s amazing anything slips out from the center. Come to think of it, not much does. A chance for ambiance inside the office of the reporter, namely elevated trains passing by, split the stereos evenly. There’s not even an attempt to separate.
With almost no action, the drama is purely talkative. In the barren halls of the project apartments, even the thought of an echo is too much. This TrueHD mix just sits without ever moving. Dialogue is consistent without any obvious flubs or audible ADR, and the balance isn’t difficult to maintain. Gunshots are drab enough that there is little opportunity for a volume spike.
Director, writer, producer Dito Montiel and editor/executive producer Jake Pushinsky offer a commentary, a highlight since there’s hardly anything else. A slim selection of deleted scenes and a trailer are it otherwise.