I had fairly limited expectations when I saw the new movie Snitch starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson since I hadn't really heard all that much about it due to a somewhat light marketing campaign. I have to say though that I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be quite a compelling and interesting drama about a father's determined efforts to rescue his son from a life of incarceration. It was also great to see Dwayne Johnson really expand his acting chops, trading in his action heroics for a more subtle and understated role.
Johnson plays John Matthews, the owner of a successful construction company in Missouri, and a divorced dad who has a strained relationship with his 18-year-old son Jason. One day Jason stupidly signs for a package that he knows contains about $7000 worth of Ecstacy pills, even though he told his buddy that he wanted nothing to do with the drugs. Jason is immediately arrested by the feds for drug trafficking because his friend set him up in order to get a reduced sentence. Now, in order for Jason to get a reduced sentence, the attorney wants him to set up one of his innocent friends to be arrested which Jason isn't willing to do. You see, the system is so screwed up that the government is more than happy to incarcerate non-drug dealers in order to give off the perception that something is being done by law enforcement concerning the war on drugs while the actual drug dealers remain on the streets. Crazy right?
Since Jason isn't willing to play ball, a representative from the U.S. Attorney's office (Susan Sarandon) says that he is facing a minimum 10 year prison sentence which doesn't sit well with his father at all. At the end of his rope, John strikes a deal to go undercover in order to flush out a local notorious drug dealer named Malik (Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire) so that his son's sentence will be reduced to one year. John approaches one of his employees named Daniel (Jon Bernthal, best known as Shane on The Walking Dead), an ex-con who served time for narcotics, in order to get an introduction to Malik. Malik agrees to give John a try at transporting drugs with his semi truck, and if he does a good job, there will be bigger payoffs to come. The whole time John is doing this a DEA agent (Barry Pepper, sporting the most scraggily goatee I've seen in awhile) is monitoring his movements, ready to arrest Malik the first chance he gets. When it becomes apparent that the main drug supplier named El Topo (Benjamin Bratt) wants to meet John however, the DEA hold off on arresting Malik in order to go for the top dog of the organization. Now John is thrust deeper into this mess than he ever wanted to go, but he has no choice if he wants to see his son go free.
Snitch is not your typical action movie, in fact it is far more story heavy than I anticipated and that is a good thing. It is supposedly based on true events, and even though it seemingly stretches the limits of plausibility at times, I found myself thoroughly invested and engaged with this tale of a father's struggle and sacrifice to help his son by any means necessary. There are a couple of action sequences in the film, but don't go in expecting a ton of shoot-em-ups and explosions as this is far more dramatic than that.
I found the performances to be one of the really strong aspects of Snitch. I have always been a fan of Dwayne Johnson since his pro wrestling days, and even though he's done some real stinkers over the years, you can always count on him to give it his all. Here he plays a really solid family man just trying to do what is right, not only for his son, but also for his new wife and daughter. There is some real inner torment and quiet desperation on display here rather than the usual machismo one has come to expect from "The Rock." This is definitely one of his best performances yet and a direction I'd like to see his career take. Jon Bernthal is also outstanding in a meaty role. He is just trying to make a better life for himself and his family and he reluctantly gets sucked back into this turmoil and chaos.
Snitch is a solid piece of entertainment. It builds its story nicely to a very suspenseful climax and keeps you on your toes throughout wondering if John is going to be able to pull this off. It was refreshing to see that it's not just a dumb action film. Like I said before, I was pleasantly surprised with this one.
Give Snitch a shot, it's worth checking out.
I give Snitch a 7.5 out of 10.
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