PLOT: After his son is caught in a DEA sting for trafficking drugs, John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson)- desperately cuts a deal with the federal prosecutor (Susan Sarandon), where heíll go undercover setting up dealers, in exchange for his sonís release.
REVIEW: SNITCH is very atypical for The Rock. Usually, he acts in either hardcore action, or big-budget family movies. SNITCH is certainly not the latter, but neither is it the action flick itís being positioned as. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh (FELON), SNITCH is an ultra-serious crime thriller where Johnsonís relatable family man is caught up in a nightmare scenario.
His son, a ďjust-turned eighteenĒ suburban kid (a delicate-looking Rafi Gavron) is busted for holding a package for his friend. Knowing it was full of drugs, heís nonetheless way out of his league when heís slapped with the mandatory minimum law, in which heís guaranteed a minimum of ten years in jail. Not knowing anyone he can snitch on, heís in big trouble. Thereís a scene early on where Johnson visits his locked up son, whoís been the victim of a severe beating, and is being taunted sexually by another prisoner- while all The Rock- usually an action God, can do is look on in horror. Itís very affecting- and perfectly sets the stage for Johnsonís desperate attempt to get his son out of jail by whatever means necessary.
Usually, Iíd say the idea that the DEA is willing to let a suburban dad go undercover in the drug world would be a stretch, but apparently SNITCH is inspired by true events. I have no idea how close the filmmakers stayed to the original story (my guess is not very) - but Waughís straight-forward, gritty take on the material makes it seem believable.
Dwayne ďThe RockĒ Johnson is very different in SNITCH than youíd expect. Despite being set in the ultra-violent drug world, donít expect any major physical action from Johnson- who, in his only physical scrap of the film, actually gets beaten up. The only real action comes in the final act, with a really well-conceived truck-chase/shoot-out thatís like a real-world version of the climax of THE ROAD WARRIOR, and impressive in its lack of CGI.
Johnson also gets a heck of a supporting cast this time out, with Jon Bernthal of THE WALKING DEAD, playing his ex-con employee that he coerces into helping get him into the drug game, making a big impression. Michael Kenneth Williams from THE WIRE (Omar!) shows up as, you guessed it- a drug dealer. Given his menacing look, I suppose heís been stereotyped, but even still- he brings something different to the part that you wonít appreciate until his final scenes. As the big baddie, we get Benjamin Bratt- as a kind of Gus Fring suburban cartel leader, and with his goatee and glasses, he looks menacing. Speaking of goatees- Barry Pepper spots a crazy, SONS OF ANARCHY-looking one as the sympathetic DEA agent in charge of Johnsonís case- while Susan Sarandon, as the prosecutor, comes off as only slightly less evil than the drug dealers.
Overall, I was really impressed with SNITCH, which surprised me by being a lean and mean thriller, and probably The Rockís best film to date (outside of FAST FIVE that is). With this, he demonstrates a wider range than I thought he had, and admirably dials it down enough so that itís easy to accept him as an everyman (even his physique is downplayed- with no shirtless scenes or even short-sleeve shirts). SNITCH is a real gem, and a nice little February sleeper. Itís not off-the-wall action, but itís thrilling in its own low-key way and highly recommended.
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