Review – Snitch (2013)

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon, Michael K. Williams, Rafi Gavron, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Benjamin Bratt

SnitchSnitch, the new movie for Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, is not quite what you expect it to be. Johnson plays John Matthews, owner of a trucking freight company and father of a young man who has been arrested for intent to deal drugs. While his involvement in the process was nothing more than reluctantly agreeing to accept a Fed-Ex package for a friend, the mandatory minimum laws mean that he is facing at least ten years in prison. His only hope of reducing his sentence is to give up information which leads to the conviction of other drug dealers, but he doesn’t know any.

About half-an-hour into this movie I am wondering what on earth ‘The Rock’ is doing there. This seems like the part for a dramatic actor, not an action hero. But then it starts to become clear. Matthews goes to the U.S. Attorney’s office with a proposal. While his son might not be able to name any drug dealers, what if Matthews can go out and find some? A deal is struck and John Matthews is now an undercover drug-dealer hunter. With his access to semi-trailers an attractive proposition for dealers it doesn’t take long before Matthews is deeper involved than either he or the U.S. Attorney ever imagined he would be.

As an action movie, Snitch is less in the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sylvester Stallone tradition, where you would expect a wrestler-turned-actor to make their home, and more in Mel Gibson/Harrison Ford vein. The film even culminates in a semi-trailer chase sequence which is reminiscent of Mad Max 2, minus the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Instead of being non-stop explosions and whammies, director Ric Roman Waugh, whose background is as a stuntman, delivers a film with decent narrative pacing and balance and a surprising amount of genuine emotion. The problem this presents though is that Dwayne Johnson as your leading man sometimes lacks the dramatic range to pull off some of the film’s more human moments.

You don’t often hear this said about an action movie, but Snitch has a really interesting musical score. Composed by Brazil’s Antonio Pinto, the score consists primarily of strings and percussion, and prominently features a single cello, which gives the sound a real Deadwood feel. The music ends up being the most surprising and original aspect of the film.

Waugh and Johnson, who is also one of the film’s producers, appear to have intended for this film to be seen as a political comment about the problems with the mandatory minimum system – the film finishes with captions giving figures comparing mandatory minimum drug sentence lengths to those of murder and rape convictions – but I don’t know that many viewers will engage with the movie on that level. However, if you are capable of suspending your disbelief and accepting the storyline before you, you will find Snitch to be a reasonable action film.

Rating – ★★

Review by Duncan McLean

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