Monday, November 4, 2013


Directed by Ric Roman Waugh.
2013. Rated PG-13, 112 minutes.
Jon Bernthal
Michael K. Williams
Melina Kanakaredes
Nadine Velazquez
Rafi Gavron

You just can’t trust people these days. Jason (Gavron) learns the hard way when his best friend sets him up with the feds by shipping a box of illegal pills to his house. The thing is, Jason is not really in the drug game. His buddy is and just needed someone to implicate in order to reduce his own sentence. Now, he faces a possible ten year prison bid. No worries, his dad happens to be The Rock…er…Dwayne Johnson…I mean John, played by The Rock…um…Dwayne Johnson. Like any good parent, dad wants to help his son in any way possible. Since we need something to justify us spending nearly two hours with him on his quest to save the boy from permanently becoming Bubba’s bitch, he does so in the dumbest way he can imagine. Despite being wealthy enough to afford a lawyer good enough to beat an extremely flimsy case, he uses his connections to get a meeting with Joanne Keeghan (Sarandon), the powerful District Prosecutor. There, he volunteers to do what his son wouldn't: help the cops catch more bad guys. Despite being told it doesn't work that way, and warned not to do anything stupid, he does precisely that. He takes it upon himself to go undercover and pretend to be a guy looking to get into the drug trafficking business.

The setup of any movie requires the viewer to buy in for our suspension of disbelief to kick in. This is no different. The problem is in trying to simultaneously create empathy for John it removes logic from his thought process. What he does should be a last ditch effort, not the first thing that pops into his brains. As mentioned, he’s financially well off. He owns a successful business. It is obvious he is not an idiot. I’m sure the man has dealt with lawyers before. Why he immediately accepts what he’s been told at the police station and by the prosecutor who’s job it is to lock people up boggles the mind. He never even asks his son what happened. It becomes galling because we know that the case against the kid is flimsy. Yes, the feds have a bunch of pills that were shipped to the boy. However, their whole case is really based on the idea Jason explicitly agreed to commit the crime he’s charged with. What makes this flimsy is not just that he did no such thing, but the entire conversation takes place online, so it’s presumably retrievable. Any lawyer worth his salt would have a field day with this. The takeaway from all this is that our hero is a guy unnecessarily playing cowboy. It’s something he does several times throughout the picture, putting himself and the rest of his family in harm’s way. The movie would have benefited greatly from having everything he does be the only thing he can. It rarely feels this way. Instead it feels like we’re watching a man back himself into a corner over and over again when he doesn't have to.

Faulty premise aside, Snitch does a number of things well. For starters, and in aid of its “inspired by true events” label, it resists the urge to become an all out balls-to-the-wall action flick until very late in the movie. It lets situations play out in a manner that at least suggests reality more than simply having John load up his arsenal and go hunting bad guys. We get a decent bit of tension from wondering how our hero will come out of his various predicaments in possession of his life. Two people in particular help things along in this regard. First, Barry Pepper as Agent Cooper excellently provides our voice of reason. He gets roped in to working with John, but doesn't like it one bit. He knows the risks too well. His heedings are at the backs of our minds whenever … decides to fly by the seat of his pants, which is often. On the other end of the spectrum is Michael K. Williams as mid-level drug dealer Malik. I know, it’s a stereotypical role. However, he plays it with such intensity we can’t help feeling a little worried for anyone on the screen with him.

The pacing of the film also works to its advantage. It moves along nicely, quickly getting our hero into one dangerous scenario after another. Between them, he argues with Susan Sarandon. The cycle works well enough that eventually, we let go of that nonsensical beginning and just roll with the idea that this is a father trying to save his son. Still, the memory of it is never completely erased because our hero keeps doing stupid things. This is just one way in which the movie undermines itself. Another is in its heavy-handedness. I mentioned the pacing is a plus. However, we get numerous pauses in the movie’s flow so someone to make sure the audience understands that none of this would have happened if not for the evils of mandatory sentencing. Whether I agree or not is irrelevant. I don’t want to be repeatedly hammered over the head with any viewpoint. At times, it feels more like propaganda than entertainment. A message should be weaved seamlessly into the narrative, not stopping it in its tracks every so often. The end result is a movie that works when it focuses on dad saving the day, but struggles with everything else.

MY SCORE: 6/10


  1. The action was fun, the acting was good and there's a surprising amount of heart to the movie. Not perfect, but fine for a little watch. Good review Dell.

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