Movie Review: "Snitch"
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of violence, drug content)
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 22, 2013
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Stars: 3 out of 5
"Snitch" tells a story of teenager Jason (Ravi Gavron), a good kid who makes one huge mistake that almost cost him everything. He lets his friend talk him into accepting a large parcel that turns out to be filled with illegal drugs. The whole situation ends up being a setup, which means that poor Jason gets caught by the police and is put in a cell to await trial. Strict drug laws state that he has to do ten years in jail, even though this is his first arrest and he is obviously clueless as to what happened.
His desperate father, John (Dwayne Johnson), corners the district attorney on the case, Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), to see what he can do to reduce or commute his son's sentence. She tells him that the only way to save his son from a decade in prison is to bring her a bigger fish to fry, such as the person behind the cartel that supplies the drugs. John immediately begins hatching a plan to get inside the cartel so that he can then snitch on that person and get Jason out of prison. Not only is he concerned about his son, but he figures that doing so could also help heal their relationship, which has been rocky since he divorced Jason's mother and got remarried to a younger woman.
John owns a fleet of freight trucks that are perfect for running drugs, so he uses his equipment as a way to infiltrate the cartel, which is run by Malik (Michael K. Williams). John enlists the help of former gang member Daniel (Jon Bernthal), who left crime behind to rebuild his broken life. Between Daniel's insight and John's trucks, John quickly makes himself indispensible to Malik, who doesn't suspect that John is trying to take his empire down. When the drug running becomes much easier thanks to John's help, Malik begins to get greedy and calls in El Topo (Benjamin Bratt), a Mexican druglord who can take his business to the next level. The stakes become much higher for John, who is in over his head with the gang and fears he may find himself six feet under before he gets a chance to save his son.
There are some great supporting actors in "Snitch," including the criminally underrated Barry Pepper as Billy Cooper. In some action films, the supporting players overshadow the star simply because they have more dialogue and less chasing and fighting to do. In "Snitch," Johnson doesn't get overshadowed because he has a nice balance of action and dialogue that he hasn't had in previous roles. He is allowed to finally spread his wings as an actor and show some range, which will likely surprise his longtime fans. He also doesn't play a retired assassin, ex-CIA agent, or any other character who has a preternatural ability to fight. He plays an everyday man who loses as many fights as he wins, which makes the film much more realistic.
Parents could easily use "Snitch" as something of a warning for their children, particularly teenagers who are about to make big decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. In fact, the opening credit sequence includes a note stating that the film is being based on a true story, which helps make it more realistic and relevant. Jason may still legally be a child, but he is making adult decisions that could put him behind bars for a good chunk of his adult life in addition to possibly getting his father killed. Any teens who see this film may think twice before allowing a friend to bully them into doing something questionable. It is as much a cautionary tale as it is a drama or thriller, which adds to the overall impact of the film.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about "Snitch" is that the director of the film, Ric Roman Waugh, was previously a movie stuntman. This film is just his third feature-length directorial effort and suggests that Waugh could be a directing powerhouse in the future if he wanted to direct with more frequency. The film is a fantastic mixture of action sequences and family dysfunction that feels real and somewhat relatable. Even when the action kicks into the next gear, it always seems rather plausible, especially since Johnson spends as much time hurt and defeated as he does playing action hero. It's a delicate balance that Waugh achieves almost effortlessly, which is one main reason why "Snitch" will surely appeal to a wide variety of moviegoers.