You know what Dwayne Johnson did? Made 'Snitch' good
Posted February 21, 2013
Snitch is about the lengths to which a father will go to protect his son.
The film (* * * out of four; rated PG-13; opening Friday nationwide) is at its most intriguing when trained on that dramatic focus, rather than on chase scenes and menacing exchanges between two-bit hoods and narco kingpins.
Dwayne Johnson plays John Matthews, the owner of a Missouri construction company, whose estranged teenage son, Jason (Rafi Gavron), is framed on a drug-dealing charge.
Because of tightened legislation, first-time offender Jason is thrown in prison, even though he's innocent. A buddy set him up for the fall. He's facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
Matthews is divorced from Jason's mom, Sylvie (Melina Kanakaredes), is remarried and has a young daughter.
In seeking the intercession of ambitious U.S. attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), Matthews learns that the only way his son's sentence can be lessened is if the 18-year-old cooperates with authorities and helps them prosecute a bigger fish in the drug world.
Jason doesn't know any drug dealers and refuses to fabricate evidence. But his desperate dad will do whatever it takes, risking his own safety and that of his family, to free his son.
Johnson is terrific, as he further matures as an actor. He's no action hero/one-man-army here. It's a far more nuanced performance than he's given before. Facing substantial danger, he plays a desperate dad who clearly gets in far beyond his capability. He may have an impressive physique and stalwart demeanor, but he's massively outgunned and no match for hardened criminals.
With the help of federal prosecutor Keeghan, a DEA agent (Barry Pepper) and Matthews' employee (Jon Bernthal), a former felon, Matthews infiltrates a dangerous cartel led by a suave Mexican drug lord (Benjamin Bratt).
During a climactic scene, Johnson careens around in a huge tractor-trailer, surrounded on all sides by bad guys.
The film is fast-paced in the beginning and end but lags somewhat in the middle. Still, the dramatic nature of the story, more than the action sequences, make the movie most compelling.
Johnson is thoroughly convincing as an undercover informant, as well as a businessman and concerned father. His drive to help his son is fueled by his contrition over not being around when his son was growing up. That determination trumps all concerns for his own personal safety.
This engrossing thriller, co-written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh, is based on an actual case detailed in a PBS Frontline documentary. It's a timely story. The film seeks to make a statement about the futility of the war on drugs, but that message takes a back seat to its thriller elements.
Since most parents would take a bullet, or 10, if it would save their child, movies like Snitch strike a responsive chord for adult viewers.
In its focus on an ordinary family facing a nightmarish scenario, Snitch is a terrifying but relatable story.
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