“Inspired by true events” (nearly every movie made nowadays boasts such a line), the film introduces college bound teen Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) making a serious mistake. Hesitantly, he accepts a package from his out-of-state friend, knowing the contents are a distributable amount of ecstasy (MDMA) pills. Sure enough, he’s immediately arrested by DEA agents and imprisoned, where his mother Sylvie (Melina Kanakaredes) and father John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) discover that Jason is facing 10 years in prison – a minimum mandatory sentence for first time offenders. Determined to help his son regain his life, John uses his connections (how convenient) to meet with US District Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to discuss hypothetical alternatives to serving out the sentence. She agrees to use Matthews to catch crooks higher up the ladder in exchange for a reduced term, leading him first to partner up with employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal) for an introduction to dealer Malik (Michael K. Williams), who in turn can connect them with cartel head and chief supplier, El Topo (Benjamin Bratt).
“Snitch” contains quite a few conflicting ideas about its subject matter. At the same time that it condemns ratting on accomplices, despite the obvious benefits of reducing the impact of judicial measures, it also sets about discouraging cooperation with the authorities. There are simply no good choices laid out for the youth catalyst to the lead character’s undercover operation. Stereotypically, corrupt officials rule prison; and its residents are all candidates for assault. Negotiating with prosecutors is equally jeopardous, considering the likelihood of deals changing mid-satisfaction and the drastic divide between the adjudicators and the policemen calling the shots on the streets. Lastly, the drug dealers themselves are depicted to be extremely violent, distrustful, paranoid, and heavily armed and quick to dispose of suspicious participants.
It’s almost as if “Snitch” is trying to detail the manner in which inexperienced players inevitably lose out to both sides of the law. The major drug distributors are practically above authoritative ramifications, able to use their considerably unquantifiable resources to access information and synergy the police can’t begin to monitor. And following the suggestions of DEA agents (the most convincingly illustrated and admirably performed of which is Barry Pepper as Cooper) is likely to result in Witness Protection at best, but more frequently execution through baiting tactics. The interests of the pawns are certainly not considered in big picture scenarios.
All of this is depressingly realistic, portrayed by two separate characters, one of which is a slowly reforming ex-convict – the other one from a wealthier but equally helpless background. On the plus side, the deterioration of families, placing blame on parental deficiencies, the pressures of abuse to fuel spontaneous action, and the persuasion of easy money and flashing firearms gives “Snitch” a surprising amount of suspense. But it’s by no means an action-packed thriller, as the theatrical trailer would have audiences believe. Instead, Dwayne Johnson, who also produces, seems genuinely interested in making a statement (no matter how conflicted it may be delivered) and immersing himself in a dramatic, deeper role, with a darker, more inflammatory storyline. He’s trying desperately to graduate from the mindless, face-pummeling adventure films he’s so clearly cut out to star in – which is unfortunate considering his most entertaining work excels in the exploitation of his prominent physical toughness.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)