Release date: 16th May 2013
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jon Bernthal, Barry Pepper, Susan Sarandon, Benjamin Bratt
Review by Peter Gray
Despite being headlined by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and presenting itself via its advertisements as some sort of fast-paced action film, ‘Snitch’ is a far more serious outing than one might expect. Positioning itself as a low-key crime thriller, the film is unable to utilise Johnson’s physicality as an action star instead allowing his acting abilities to shine through, something we’ve rarely seen from the star.
Dealing with a nightmare scenario one can only hope never to realise, Johnson stars as hard-working family man John Matthews who has learnt of his barely 18-year old son’s run in with the law; busted for housing a package full of drugs sent to him from a supposed friend. Though this is his first arrest John’s son is handed the mandatory minimum sentence – a 10 year stint in jail, and unable to snitch on anyone else who could possibly be looking at buying or selling drugs (something that would reduce his sentence), a decade behind bars appears imminent. Desperate and determined to get his son out of jail, Matthews cuts a deal with the federal prosecutor involved in the case (Susan Sarandon) to act as an undercover runner for other drug dealers in the hopes of setting them up to be caught, in exchange for the release of his son. The idea that the DEA would allow a suburban dad like Matthews, albeit a solidly built one, to go undercover and infiltrate drug cartels is a bit of a stretch to say the least, but as we are informed in the opening titles ‘Snitch’ is based on true events, so whilst it’s highly probable that writer/director Ric Roman Waugh and co-writer Justin Haythe strayed relatively far from the source material, the straight forward approach Waugh has taken at least results in the material appearing believable.
As mentioned earlier, the film downplays any of the action tendencies we’d expect and though towards the climactic moments we are served up a well-conceived, yet unfortunately flat, truck-chase/shoot-out, the majority of the films run time is focused on Matthews and the situational extremities he goes to for the sake of his son. It allows a welcome change of pace for Johnson as he rarely stretches his action muscle here, and we finally get to see just how capable a performer he is. There’s never been any denying the charisma he brings to his muscular swagger in action pieces like ‘Fast & Furious 5’ and ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’, but it’s a welcome change to see him play the everyday man – or at least the closest he can be to an everyday man. There’s a scene early on in the film where Johnson first pays a visit to the jail and can only look on in horror as another inmate sexually taunts his son, who’s also been the victim of a brutal gang beating. It’s a particularly affective scene as it highlights the one strand of helplessness his character feels regarding his son’s situation, but acts as a perfect starting point for his resolution.
Whilst Johnson is ‘Snitch’s main driving power, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a surprisingly notable array of support on board also with Jon Bernthal (TV’s ‘The Walking Dead’) making a strong impression as a co-worker of Matthews’ whose criminal past allows instant access to the higher end drug cartels. Benjamin Bratt appears briefly, almost to the point where he could be considered little more than an extended cameo, as a cartel head known as “El Topo” (which translates as ‘The Mole’) who should be a daunting figure but ends up being rather useless, with Sarandon ending up being more imposing as the federal prosecutor.
Whilst I wasn’t blown away by ‘Snitch’, I wasn’t detracted from it as it served its purpose admirably and managed to keep things afloat despite the action being light, something the trailers would like you to believe is in higher quantity. If you’re a fan of The Rock this should do the trick for a cinema outing where you’ve seen everything else that’s currently playing, but if you want the man in all his explosive glory best hold out until he gets fast and furious again.
My rating 3/5 (Slightly less than Rock solid)