"Snitch" -- movie review
Release date: Feb. 22, 2013
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Written by: Justin Haythe and Ric Roman Waugh
Since appearing in "The Mummy Returns" thirteen years ago, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has done his best to break the mold of a new age Schwarzenegger and Stallone in trying to become not only an action star but a credible actor. So far, he's managed to become one of the hardest working and charismatic actors in Hollywood but has done a pretty wide range of films. "Snitch" is yet another attempt to broaden the appeal of The Rock and allow him to flex his acting muscles.
Very loosely based on a Frontline documentary about how changes to the federal drug policy of the United States encouraged the incarcerated to snitch on their accomplices, "Snitch" takes place in Jefferson City, Missouri. Johnson plays John Matthews, a regular, everyday kinda guy who owns his own trucking company and is living happily with his second wife, played by Nadine Velazquez ("Flight", "My Name is Earl"). The two have a baby girl together and life is swell, but it's John's other family that is having problems. His teenage son, Jason (Rafi Gavron), is a bright kid, about to head off to college when he has a slight error in judgment and offers to hide a shipment of ecstasy for a friend. Oops. Instead, Jason ends up in handcuffs and staring at up to 30 years in federal prison after his friend gets busted and rats him out.
The U.S. District Attorney's office wants Jason to help rat out one of his drug-dealing friends for a shorter sentence but he doesn't want to be a snitch. Scared, desperate and with nowhere else to turn, John convinces the DA (Susan Sarandon) to let him go undercover, running drugs in his big rigs and bringing down drug dealers to clear Jason's name. The seemingly impossible becomes even more difficult when the deal leads them to a Mexican drug cartel. It could mean freeing Jason immediately but it could also be walking into death for John.
The trailers make this look like a typical mindless action movie featuring The Rock, but it's anything but. In fact, believe it or not, the guy goes through the entire movie with out punching anyone -- and I mean anyone. He does fire a shotgun but not very well. This represents a huge problem with the movie. Johnson is playing a regular guy here but everything we've learned from movies over the past decade has taught us The Rock is no average guy.
Don't get me wrong; Johnson handles the material just fine. It just seems like the movie would have better served with someone like Matt Damon in the lead role, someone who if they said they were standing up to a Mexican drug cartel, you'd think the dude was in way over his head. You just don't get that right now with The Rock. He absolutely looks like the exact guy you'd want to do something like this. So, when we see him get dragged out of his truck and whooped or flinch when a gun is pointed in his face, it's just not believable. None of this is bad, it just never feels quite right. When John finds out that his son is getting beat up in prison and notices other inmates making threatening faces at his boy, you want The Rock to punch through a wall and just whoop somebody -- but he doesn't.
Under the direction of Ric Roman Waugh, the movie is slow at times but the excellent supporting casts helps to elevate some of the dull moments. Barry Pepper as an undercover DEA agent, Benjamin Bratt as the kingpin druglord and Michael Kenneth Williams are among the supporting players but it's "Walking Dead" star Jon Bernthal that is the surprise of the movie. He plays a family man, just released from prison and trying to make things right with is family and his life when he's bribed into helping Johnson's character. He really isn't playing a character that feels all that different from Shane from "Walking Dead" but he has good on screen chemistry with Johnson.
There's enough good going on to make "Snitch" is an enjoyable drama. It is lighter on action that trailers and TV spots would lead you to believe but it is much more grounded in reality that a lot of The Rock's recent -- and upcoming -- flicks. With a great supporting cast around him, The Rock gives it his best effort and while it doesn't work entirely, it is a welcome change to see the Johnson try and do something different.
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