Susan Granger’s review of “Snitch” (Summit Entertainment)
When his troubled teenage Jason (Rafi Gavron) accepts a shipment of Ecstasy for a friend, gets caught in a DEA string and is sent to prison for ten years, Missouri trucking company owner John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) is determined to get him released – by any means necessary. Because of the federal mandatory minimum laws, the only way that can happen is for Jason to set up another drug dealer for a fall. Since Jason doesn’t know any other drug
dealers, John cuts a deal with a politically ambitious U.S. Attorney, Joanne
Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), to become an informant and help the DEA catch a
kingpin in exchange for Jason’s freedom. John’s conduit to the drug underworld
is one of his employees, Daniel (John Bernthal), an ex-con who is trying to go straight.
Loosely inspired by events recounted in a 1999 broadcast, also titled “Snitch,” the script was written by Justin Haythe (“Revolutionary Road”) and director/former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh. Their bias is obviously tilted against the severity of laws that mandate a lengthy sentence for drug possession with intent to sell. Indeed, Waugh’s previous film, “Felon” (2008), was a moral commentary protesting a man’s unjust incarceration after accidentally killing a burglar on his property.
So this is not your usual Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson movie, filled with mindless violence. Certainly, there’s action but it’s more restrained than you’d expect. And the car chases involve Johnson driving a huge 18-wheeler, filled with cocaine and/or cash. But far more time is spent delving into John’s father-figure character, allowing Johnson to prove he’s a much better actor than he’s usually given credit for. As a DEA veteran, Barry Pepper heads the strong supporting cast.
Problem is: there are plot loopholes large enough to drive a semi through and it’s implausible that a U.S. Attorney would allow a desperate, distraught dad to go undercover as part of a plea deal.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Snitch” is a serious, suspenseful 7, as Dwayne Johnson uses brains, not brawn to protect his son.