Snitch, inspired by true events, works as a nice showcase from some decent dramatic acting by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Fast Five). Keep in mind that this is not really an action picture, despite the misleading ad campaign, though it does boast a few action sequences. It’s these action scenes, oddly enough, that are more the downfall of Snitch, as they strain credibility. It seems that director Ric Roman Waugh (Felon), a former stunt coordinator, just wasn’t content with a dramatic picture about a father trying to get his son’s sentence for drug trafficking reduced. Instead, he opts for a typical action finale (a chase along a highway, complete with gunfire and explosions) which seems out of sorts with Johnson’s character of John Matthews. Yes, Matthews is a truck driver, owning his own business, but nothing in the film suggests that he would make for a believable stunt driver, let alone one who could fire off a shotgun at pursuing bad guys. Johnson, of course, can do action and does it quite well. But it isn’t quite believable in the context of this film.
The film’s plot centers around Matthews’ son, Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron), who lives with Matthews’ ex-wife, Sylvie (Melina Kanakaredes), who gets talked into receiving a package for a friend, which happens to contain a large bag of illegal narcotics. Unfortunately for Jason, the box has been bugged by the DEA, and, as agents burst into the house, makes the dumb choice on trying to make a run for it. Naturally, he’s caught, his friend flips on him, and Jason is now looking at a mandatory 10 year sentence courtesy of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug traffickers. Jason has nothing to offer to get a lighter sentence, so his father convinces the DEA and an opportunistic DA, Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), to allow him to aid in a drug bust in return for his son, a first time offender, getting released from prison. The DEA and the DA go along with the plan, and Matthews, with the help of an employee who had previously served time for drug dealing, Daniel James (Jon Bernthal, Shane from The Walking Dead series), makes contact with a dealer named Malik (Michael K. Williams) and they two make a run for him. When Matthews and James make their getaway during a shootout, they catch the eye of cartel leader Juan Carlos “El Topo” Pintera (an underutilized Benjamin Bratt). Naturally, this bigger prize holds more allure for the eager DA Keeghan, and Matthews is put in the position of making a dangerous run for the cartel leader, putting both his family and James’ family in danger. The trade-off is that his son will get an immediate release from prison if Matthews succeeds.
There are no real surprises on how things turn out here, and the movie just raises so many questions as to the characters’ motivations. Why would Matthews undertake such a risky venture, putting his new wife and young daughter at risk, even if it is to save his son? Why would the DA and the DEA allow such an inexperienced person to operate undercover? Why would James, a former criminal trying to make a decent life with his wife and son, agree to jump back into his former life to help a boss he barely knows? These questions just strain the movie’s credibility, and when you add the action sequences, just make you shake your head more at these people doing these rash and stupid actions when perhaps another alternative may have sufficed. That’s not to say the movie is unwatchable or unenjoyable- it does make for decent viewing, as long as you know what you’re getting going in. The ad campaign did do a disservice selling this as an action picture, and fans looking for Johnson to kick ass for the film’s 112 minute running time may end up disappointed. The cast mainly does a fine job with their roles, though Kanakaredes and Lela Loren as Matthews former and current wives due veer into melodrama at parts, causing more eye rolling than an emotional response on the part of the viewer. Both Williams and Bratt are never really menacing enough in their roles to make them any real threat. They’re only threatening because we’re told by the movie that they’re very bad guys, but I never really felt worried that Matthews or James would come out of their situation. Without that very real threat that these guys could have gotten killed, the film loses some of its edge. It also didn’t help that Jason just never was a sympathetic character to begin with, so you never really care that he gets out of jail or not. Had the filmmakers rounded out these characters more, they may have had a much more involving film. As it is, it makes for a decent rental, but hardly a must buy to add into your collection.
And that fits Snitch well- calling it a decent crime drama, with some good performances, notably from Johnson and Bernthal. It’s action is well staged, but just seems inconsistent with the characters. It’s almost as if those scenes belonged in another movie. Still, it’s worth a look, even though it’s not one of The Rock’s more memorable efforts.
Snitch is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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