Given his background both in professional wrestling and action-packed movies such as Fast Five, one might expect that Dwayne Johnson taking center stage in Snitch would mean that it's a no-holds-barred, action-packed crime story. In reality, the film is more of a suspenseful drama with the occasional dip into true action, and while that may not be what some audiences are hoping for, it doesn't mean the final product is a bad film.
Johnson plays John Matthews, a construction company boss who is forced into action when his son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is taken into custody after having a shipment of drugs mailed to him by a friend. With Jason looking at a minimum of 10 years in prison, officials offer him the choice to snitch on friends who he may suspect of drug dealing, but he refuses. Desperate, Matthews visits the local district attorney (Susan Sarandon) and offers to do the busting in place of his son. After some investigating, he asks new employee Daniel James (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead fame) about possible culprits he encountered in his past crimes, and sets up a plan to bring down local dealer Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams), but complications come up as things progress, and soon Matthews finds himself and those he loves in a dangerous predicament.
I'll give the film credit in that it doesn't stall when it comes to getting the main plot set up, as Jason is arrested probably about 5 minutes in, with the basic setup established immediately afterwards. Though that doesn't leave much time for establishing character traits and relationships, I thought that the continually worsening situation led to some good performances from the leads as they grew more desperate and in too deep. Matthews isn't a deep character at all, but you do sympathize with him and hope that he makes it out okay - at least for the most part.
I say that because the character of Daniel James, and a resulting subplot with him and his family, did make me feel a bit sad that Matthews dragged someone trying to turn over a new leaf into a dangerous situation. While the final results of the plan aren't disastrous for either of them (Some might feel that things wrap up a bit too neatly, given the story's gritty nature and presentation), it felt a little underhanded that our lead would do something like that.
As mentioned before, this isn't really an action film. There are only a handful of scenes that qualify, and the first one, a brief attempt by Jason to escape from the police at the beginning, is shot very poorly, with an overuse of shaking the camera, super-quick cuts, and not focusing on the character each shot revolves around. Thankfully, the latter scenes, which include a shootout at a junkyard and a climactic car chase, are shot better.
Those complaints aside, I did find the film entertaining, and I also felt that it actually improved and got me more wrapped up in it as it progressed, which is a preferable alternative to a film starting out promising and then going downhill. Snitch isn't a film you should necessarily rush out to see in theaters unless you're a die-hard Dwayne Johnson fan, but much like last month's The Last Stand, it's a good choice for a rental when it hits video in the future and a decent home viewing.