Genre(s): Action, Drama, Thriller
Director(s): Ric Roman Waugh
Release Year: 2013
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson left professional wrestling and started a film career, I don’t think anyone ever thought they would see him trying to act outside of an action setting. The truth is, musclebound actors should never be your choice for casting in a drama, unless that person is meant to be a hulking individual. With Snitch though, Johnson demonstrates that he can act when given the material, but the character he’s given for the film is evidence of why good casting matters. Leading an incredible cast of lesser-known actors (with the exception of Susan Sarandon, who seems to be enjoying smaller roles lately), Dwayne Johnson tries his best to work with what he’s got, despite a script that seems to be working against him at every turn.
Inspired by true events (which means almost nothing), Snitch tells the story of a man who will do anything to save his son from paying for his own mistakes, even though he initially seems enthused that his son will finally learn a lesson about life. But anyways, Dwayne Johnson plays the father, John Matthews, whose son (Rafi Gavron) is arrested for distribution of narcotics and is facing a minimum of 10 years in prison. The catch here is that John’s son was set up by his friend to reduce his own sentence. The same deal is offered to John’s son but he’s not as keen about the idea of seting up any of his friends because he’s a nice guy. That’s where his father comes in. John makes a deal with US attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to catch a drug dealer on his own to reduce his son’s sentence. Seems like the set up to a Dwayne Johnson film, but alas, this is not an action film. Instead, Snitch tries to let the audience know how the law is so backwards that you can get a longer sentence for a first-time drug offence than someone who has raped or murdered someone. It’s okay if you didn’t get that from the movie, and was too distracted by the fact that The Rock is trying to play a dad who seemingly has never been on the wrong side of the law.
That’s really the main problem with Snitch: it relies too heavily on this premise of a father going to extreme lengths to save his son, when the father is played by that guy who is best known for beating people up. No one will be watching this film thinking Johnson is going to have a hard time beating up a bunch of gangsters. The worst part is when he’s shooting a shotgun out of a moving vehicle’s window with one hand, because that’s definitely a risk that the average man would take while driving an 18-wheeler. The other casting choices actually are pretty good, with Jon Bernthal playing the father who was in the drug business but is trying to stay clean, and Benjamin Bratt as the cartel leader who is also a family man. There are a lot of fathers in this movie, except for the main reason I went to watch this film: Michael Kenneth Williams. Essentially playing a poorly-written version of Omar from The Wire, he joins the rest of the cast in being absolutely wasted by generic characters and just plain awful writing.
There’s some nice shots in this film though, and the acting from Bernthal and Bratt, though nothing out of their comfort zone, is still enough to anchor the movie. Even Dwayne Johnson proves he can be a dramatic actor, but there’s a reason people lose and gain weight for roles. It feels more like someone saw there was one action scene at the end of the film, so thought Johnson would be perfect for the film. When the movie’s climax happens, it doesn’t feel like John Matthews has progressed from a man who would stay within the law no matter what, to someone who would break the law in order to save his son. It just always feels like he’s in that final stage, and though that is the fault of Dwayne Johnson, it’s more the casting directors that thought he would be a good fit. It’s this ridiculous logic that plagues the majority of the movie. Snitch feels like another boring film that tries to point out how much the justice system sucks, without any real depth into the subject, and really just becomes a movie that will only be seen because it has Johnson in it. Unfortunately, this is The Rock trying to be a more basic version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from The Departed, something that could have worked if his character was going undercover in the wrestling world, as opposed to the world of drug trafficking.
Overall: Not Recommended