Snitch, directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, is the latest example of Hollywood’s movie trailer trickery. While the film’s trailers make it look action-packed, in reality the action scenes only account for small parts of the movie (most occurring in the third act). With a former stuntman as the director and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson (Fast Five) as the lead, it was surprising that the film lagged. Admittedly, the duller, dialogue-driven aspects of the plot made the tagline “inspired by true events” more plausible, as opposed to the continuous off-the-wall action scenes that I had expected. As an audience member, however, the 112 minute runtime seemed more like 180. Snitch is one of the better films in Johnson’s repertoire, but it is a movie you will forget pretty soon after you watch it.
The premise of Snitch is interesting. A teenage boy, Jason (Rafi Gavron), makes the mistake of accepting a package of Ecstasy sent by his best friend Craig for safekeeping. It turns out the package was tracked by DEA agents in a setup plot, whereby Craig would get a reduced sentence in exchange for snitching on Jason. Because the quantity of pills was so large, Jason was charged with drug distribution, which carries a minimum of ten years in jail. The only way he can reduce this sentence is by ratting on someone else. Unfortunately, Jason has no other drug contacts to snitch on and refuses to setup any of his friends so he is out of options. That is, until his dad John (Dwayne Johnson) takes matters into his own hands. John persuades the U.S. attorney (Susan Sarandon) to dismiss his son’s case in exchange for his help in capturing a drug kingpin. When the situation starts to escalate, John must decide whether his son’s freedom is worth risking his life.
While the premise of the film is intriguing, especially since it is based on a true story, the screenwriter seemed to be more interested in projecting a political message, strict drug laws in the United States need to be changed, than developing characters and an interesting storyline (I won’t even get into the scene where John searches for “drug cartels” on Wikipedia). The audience is constantly asked to feel sorry for Jason’s situation because he is a “good kid”, however, the only example we are given of him being “good” is the fact he is going to college; you’re not given enough time to meet Jason and feel bad for him before all of the action starts. It also seemed strange that high-target drug dealers would be so quick to trust a man like John without asking more questions, or at least following him! John made so many trips to the U.S. attorney’s office and prison, I was convinced he was being followed. Disappointingly, the situations I created in my head were much more suspenseful than any scenes in the actual script.
Though underused, the saving grace of Snitch is its fantastic supporting cast. Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise) once again proves she will shine in any role, however minimal, and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan) plays one of the most interesting characters in the film, an undercover DEA agent who serves as a mentor to John. It was also nice to see Jay Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) onscreen again. His character, an ex-con who uses his past connections to introduce John to the drug world, was poorly written, but he did the best he could with the material.
If you are looking for an action-packed thrill ride, Snitch is definitely not the movie for you. In fact, it should be classified as a drama more than an action movie (I was going to say thriller, but few parts of the film were actually thrilling). Though I appreciate Johnson’s attempt to break away from his action-hero persona, this was not the movie to do it. This is definitely the type of film you should wait to come to TV, and even then, you will probably forget you’re watching it when you flip the channel during commercials.
My Score: C-