Written and Directed by Dito Montiel
I have been impressed with the past films of Dito Montiel, his debut feature A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is still an under appreciated film, and I while I wasn’t blown away with Fighting, I still enjoyed it more than a few other similar films. Here, he reunites with Channing Tatum, who starred in his past two films (giving a career-best performance in Guide) and Ray Liotta comes back to work with Montiel again as well.
Coming back to the neighborhood he grew up in once again, Montiel this time tackles the story of Jonathan “Milk” White (Tatum) a young man who grew up in the Queensborough Projects with his friends Vincent and Vicky. The film has a fractured narrative, flashing back to Jonathan’s childhood and the events that shaped the rest of his life back in 1986. In 2002, the “present” of the film, Jonathan is a 30 year old rookie on the force who has been transferred far away from his Staten Island home to his old neighborhood in Queens, where he works under Captain Marion Mathers (Ray Liotta), who was partners with Detective Charlie Stanford (Al Pacino), who was at one time partners with White’s father.
While the plot unfolds, it flashes between 1986 and 2002, centering on the events that changed Milk’s life forever as a young man. Charlie Stanford is there to help the process along, and feels guilty about the loss of Milk’s father, but it’s never touched on exactly how he died, but the film makes it seem like it was in the line of duty.
White’s partner, Prudenti (James Ransone) is a Queens boy to the core, and he has no trouble carrying out the orders of Mathers. But when the past begins to haunt White in the form of a series of letters sent to the editor of the Queens Gazette (Juliette Binoche), he is put on the task of keeping the issue quiet by Mathers. When he doesn’t play things exactly as Mathers would want him to, Prudenti begins to keep his distance from his new partner, fearing he might not share the same loyalty to Mathers.
When the letters reach their apex in the third act, the film unfortunately becomes a huge mess. The final moments lack the authenticity of the rest of the film, and the climax goes to the predictable place you wish it wouldn’t. This is not a bad film by any means, but the script has its flaws, and unfortunately the worst of them come to fruition at the very end, when the film is left to redeem its multiple storylines in a big showdown. Unfortunately, the showdown feels plucked from sillier films about dumber characters, everything that the film sets up for 75 minutes is unfortunately crumpled up and thrown away for a last 15 minutes that is ultimately too predictable and doesn’t provide a proper resolution to the characters involved.