What would you do to help your son who was set up for a crime and sentenced to ten years in prison? That’s the dilemma one father has to face. Inspired by true events, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in Snitch from Summit Entertainment. Is this a dramatic breakout role for Dwayne Johnson, or will he suffer from being typecast as a mindless action star?
John Matthews is a mild mannered businessman. He own a construction and trucking company, but his life is turned upside down when his 18 year old son, Jason, is arrested for possession and distribution of narcotics. Jason thought he was just doing his buddy a favor by having a package delivered to his house, but his friend was actually setting him him in order to get a reduced prison sentence for his own drug related crimes. The package filled with ecstasy was tracked by law enforcement officials to John’s ex-wife’s house, where the DEA instantly raid. Jason is now facing a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in federal prison. The only way Jason can get his sentenced reduced is if he sets up one of his friends in the same manner he was. Jason refuses, so it’s up to John to try to save his son from losing out on life and being brutally assaulted on a daily basis.
Being a businessman, John calls in a couple favors to get a meeting with the Missouri Attorney General, Joanne Keeghan, who is currently running for Congress under a high drug arrest record platform. Keeghan basically shows little sympathy, for John’s plight, so John makes her a deal. He’ll make a drug bust of his own to reduce his son’s sentence. Keeghan sets him up with DEA Agent Cooper to get the ball rolling, but John isn’t a drug dealer, he’s an honest businessman. So he decides to check the employment records of his company to see what ex-cons work for him. One employee fits the all the criteria for John, a recent hire by the name of Daniel James who was arrested twice for posession of narcotics. With Daniel’s background and help, can John get in well enough with the Mexican Cartel to take down a kingpin and rescue his son?
With recent box office flops from Schwarzenegger and abysmal sequels from Willis, I was really apprehensive going into Snitch. I was expecting a mindless action movie starring on-again-off-again professional wrestler, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Boy was I wrong. Now while the film isn’t without its minor flaws, it a simple story of two fathers from different paths in life trying to do what’s best for their sons. It was really refreshing that this wasn’t a film riddled with shakey cam and product placement while littered with a soundtrack of the latest pop songs. Snitch is a well told story of character and conviction. Now I’m not going to lie, there are some preposterous moments in the 95 minutes of the film’s duration, but it’s overlooked because the focus isn’t on bullets and explosions, rather it uses that time to develop the characters and tell a somewhat inspiring story.
As I said, Snitch is really about two fathers. The first is John Matthews played by Dwayne Johnson, who also is one of the film’s producer. He is trying to get his son out of trouble. Johnson is a guy who neglected his family because he thought hard work was the only way to provide for his family. That mentality leads to divorce and ultimately results in the trouble for his son. What I liked about Johnson’s performance is that he wasn’t trying to be a soldier or a dumb muscleman. He was trying to just be a brave father without the bad guys knowing how naive he is to the underworld. Johnson doesn’t flex his biceps, but rather a different muscle, his heart. The portrayal of John Matthews is all about family and standing up for what’s right, nothing more, nothing less. This is a lot more grown up role for Johnson as a father compared to his character in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
The second father is Daniel James played by Jon Bernthal (Shane from AMC’s The Walking Dead). Bernthal’s performance is of a man desperately trying to keep his son from repeating the criminal mistakes of his past. His character just got out of prison and made a promise to his family that he’ll never go back into a life of crime. He moves his family to a better neighborhood and just wants to live an honest life with an honest job. I really liked Bernthal in Snitch. I kept looking for a Walking Dead Shane clone in his portrayal of Daniel, but there wasn’t one to be found. He really showed how talented of an actor he is.
The rest of the cast includes the family members, police, politicians, and criminals you’d typically expect in a story like this. Playing John’s son in trouble and his ex wife are Rafi Gavron and Melina Kanakaredes. The DEA Agent and State Attorney General are played by Barry Pepper and Susan Sarandon. The badguys are Benjamin Bratt as Cartel Druglord, Juan Carlos ‘El Topo’ Pintera, and Michael K. Williams as ghetto drug dealer, Malik. None of the performances were exceptional in their bit parts, but they all added key elements and obstacles to the journeys John and Daniel had to take.
Snitch is directed by stunt veteran, Ric Roman Waugh. Now he isn’t really know for his directing ability, but he has worked in the stunt department of a lot of major Hollywood blockbusters. This is quite surprising because I would have expected a Brett Ratner type of director to handle a “Rock” movie. But what Waugh accomplishes is breaking away from the norm and actually telling a story. Now there are indeed stunts in the movie that involve a lot of cars and a semi truck tractor trailer, but that’s not until the finale. Waugh uses the movie to take the audience on a journey of hardship, perseverance and redemption.
The other hard hitting topic the film brings up is how ridiculous the government is at trying to win the war on drugs. No matter what side of the fence you are on in the debate, it’s hard not to think how crazy it is that someone just in possession of drugs gets a harsher of a prison sentence than a robber or rapist. I think this is the point of the movie, that to fight something ludicrous, you have to result to ludicrous measures. Snitch is a film that I could see some parents taking their mildly troubled teens to spark a conversation. Though definitely not as harsh as a “Scared Straight” program, some youth may learn a lesson from the film.
I had a good time with Snitch. It was intriguing and I, like the rest of the audience, watched it completely silent making sure not to miss dialog or just in shock at the events unfolding on screen. The music score was somber and ominous setting the mood and tone that the movie wanted you to experience. Don’t go into the theater thinking you are going to get Fast Five or G.I. Joe: Retaliation. This is more of a drama than an action movie. If you are a fan of The Rock and his roles like the one in Faster, I think you’ll enjoy Snitch. It may not be a movie you’ll watch again and again, but hearing audience reaction as they left the theater, I am confident in saying I recommend checking it out.
In Theaters: February 22, 2013
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for drug content and sequences of violence)
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Rafi Gavron, David Harbour, Benjamin Bratt, Susan Sarandon, Lela Loren, J.D. Pardo, Harold Perrineau, Kyara Campos, James Allen McCune
Genre: Action, Crime Drama, Thriller
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: http://www.Snitch-Movie.com