For his third film, outer-borough sensationalist Dito Montiel sets most of the action in Astoria, the Queens neighborhood that dominated his first, 2006's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. He reteams with Channing Tatum, the star of all his features, here playing Jonathan White, a second-generation cop tormented by the rash actions committed during his pubescence in the enormous Queensbridge housing project. The action toggles between 2002 — when 9/11 memorial candles still burned outside police stations while inside, arrestees were being punched — and 1986, when young Jonathan
(Jake Cherry) is advised by his dead dad's partner, played by Al Pacino, that “a man has to learn to live with shit.” Montiel cares little about plot logic or even the remotest connection with reality, most evident in casting Juliette Binoche as a Queens lady journalist. But, as in the director's previous work, some terrific acting emerges from
the absurd script. Tatum is touching as the stressed, decent provider trying to make something bad from his past not destroy his future. Yet the real surprise is Tracy Morgan, in a small but transformative role as the heavily medicated adult incarnation of Jonathan's childhood friend. His portrayal of schizoaffective disorder is balm in a film suffering a similar illness.
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