Snitch is a solid crime drama featuring a surprisingly good turn from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
So far in 2013, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone have all released action vehicles. Unfortunately, none of their films have actually made a dent in the box office or the minds of critics. Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now ready to step up to the plate, offering up a little film known as Snitch. With drugs, cartel violence, and social issues at the centerpiece of this film, can Johnson and crew beat out the far more established action stars’ offerings?
John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) is a successful business man in the construction field – a miracle considering the current state of the economy. One fateful day, he receives a call from his ex-wife that his estranged son Jason (Rafi Gavron) had been charged with shipping illegal drugs. The fact of the matter is, though, that his best friend set him up as a drug dealer in order to reduce his own potential sentence. Jason is charged with at least a decade in prison. He’s a well-meaning, intelligent kid who had recently been accepted into a major university, so John cannot bear the thought of his son living his life behind bars. With that, he convinces one of his ex-con employees named Daniel (The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal) to assist him in “snitching” on other drug cartel insurgents to crack down on such crimes and hopefully reduce his son’s sentence.
If you had expected Snitch to be a full-fledged action film like A Good Day to Die Hard, The Last Stand or Bullet to the Head, you will be surprised by the movie’s content. Snitch is in fact a crime drama, akin to TV shows such as Breaking Bad. Thankfully, it is solid enough to stand as a compelling story of sacrifice and the corruption of the drug business. However, I have to say that there are elements of the story that hold Snitch back from being as great of a film as it could have been. Firstly, this film often seemed to be overtly concerned with the social issues it hopes to address, occasionally resulting in forced conversations between characters. The fact of the matter is that other screenplays have dealt with these issues in subtler, more effective ways. Snitch blatantly makes a point in that its story is based on actual events, but I feel that their focus would have been better placed on formulating a cohesive, character-driven masterpiece.
This film features a surprisingly good dramatic screenplay with realism, compelling dialogue and deep characters to spare. John Matthews is a relatable character, for the script makes some subtle comments that go hand-in-hand with Dwayne Johnson’s performance. Ultimately, though Snitch may be a tad heavy-handed in its social commentary, this is a solid story that will keep you entertained throughout its runtime.
This film features the best performance I have yet seen from The Rock. Whereas some actors may choose to be over-the-top in dramatic moments, Dwayne Johnson managed to tone himself down just enough to make his character believable. His nuance creates a relateable character throughout, such as in the scene in which John speaks with his son in prison. Interestingly, Johnson also manages to downplay his image as a towering man who could easily tear someone apart. There’s even a scene where he is trampled by other men. Rest assured, Dwayne Johnson’s transition into real drama is successful, and one that I hope leads to him winning even more memorable roles. His co-stars fare well enough, though Susan Sarandon plays things a little safely in her role as a federal attorney concerned with gaining momentum for her Congressional campaign – more blatant social commentary. Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead fame is excellent as the ex-con who reluctantly helps John; I believed his character’s regret for a previous life of crime. He is a charismatic but otherwise realistic partner, having good chemistry with Dwayne Johnson. Michael Kenneth Williams of The Wire also does well, lending deserved tension to scenes involving the drug cartels in the story. Barry Pepper is also very entertaining in his role as a DEA agent working alongside John Matthews in the fight against the local drug cartels. Acting is certainly one of the stronger elements of Snitch, led by Dwayne Johnson’s impressive turn.
Initially, I worried how director Ric Roman Waugh would handle this film’s more intense sequences. My fear was heightened during a chase sequence in the beginning of Snitch which is filmed with an absurd amount of shaky cam – the technique is used to the point that it was nearly headache-inducing to watch. Thankfully, the rest of the film is directed fairly well. Dramatic sequences are shot well, though there are far too many close-ups in some scenes. Aside from the opening, the action is entertaining, realistic (although suspension of disbelief is required to a certain extent in the climax) and properly intense. They also reflect on the dreadful effects of drug violence, but in notably more effective ways than the dialogue.
I wouldn’t say that everyone needs to rush out to see Snitch, for there are shows and films out there that treat these social issues in better ways. But if you do, you won’t be disappointed by this film overall. The narrative is solid, the cast is great (especially Dwayne Johnson), and the action and drama is balanced enough to make this film emotionally effective and consistently entertaining. With all of the dreck in theaters right now– aside from the Oscar winners still being shown – Snitch is not a bad choice.