Valuable piece of information on the laws on narcotics as well as an entertaining vehicle for The Rock. Snitch is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s most mature film (Really!!), playing a father who becomes an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) so he can get his callow, innocuous 18-year old son’s 10-year sentence reduced to two or less served years. It’s his son from his first marriage, but committed to fatherly duties he is, goddammit. Director Ric Roman Waugh, a former stuntman, keeps the “sensationalism” to a minimum and screenwriter Justin Haythe with Waugh has crafted an unlikely but truly meaningful script that is loosely based on a true story.
This isn’t the ultimate drug picture, not a social message apex like “Traffic,” but you come away with something. John Matthews (Johnson) owns a construction business who propositions an ex-con employee, Daniel, to introduce him to his former drug trafficking associates. Jon Bernthal, as Daniel, is so good when he’s on-screen that I thought I was watching ’70’s cinema like “Picnic in Needle Park” or something like it. Daniel is a reformed man, so only reluctantly – for the payday that John fronts – does he introduce John to his former contacts in the drug kingpin underworld.
John helps the DEA gain enough dirt on a nasty, gun-wielding dealer Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams). But they hold out, and coerce John to nab a bigger fish (Benjamin Bratt as El Topo). “Snitch” has already worked best without gun shoot-outs, but when the script does cave in to having one, it is at least tidily handled with steady camerawork and credible human behavior. El Topo is so impressed by how John handles himself that he is ready to invite him into his family where he will make the big dough – uh, how about all that shooting that he just lived through? Why would El Topo think John would want to do business with him? This is just one of few stretches of disbelief.
The supporting roles are compelling. Susan Sarandon is the self-possessed U.S. Attorney (running in a campaign for U.S. Congress) who cuts John the unlikely deal. Barry Pepper, both solemn in demeanor but funny in appearance, is very hidden under beaver and chipmunk hair and makeup as the top dog DEA agent. Nadine Velazquez, the flight attendant who was Denzel’s nookie in “Flight,” is the second wife to John who is justly alarmed at the risk he’s putting his current family under.
The makers of the film were supposedly excited by the documentary they saw on TV’s “Frontline.” For mass audience pull, they’ve come up with a climactic highway shoot ’em up with The Rock (yes, I’m saying less Dwayne more Rock, baby) like he’s Mad Max with his trusty shotgun. This highway calamity never happened in real life, but the decent thing (yes, I’m going with the word decent) is that it has been staged fairly plausibly. This is how a fatal contest between a one-man big rig versus angry gunrunners in sedans would look like. This isn’t minimalism, but it’s respectably close. Good show.
95 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION-DRAMA / DRUG MOVIE / FRIDAY-SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Traffic” (2000); “Blow” (2001); “Contraband” (2012); “Savages” (2012).