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2013 | 112 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1



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User reviews

1 user review

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 22 February, 2013
 21 June, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Snitch Blu-ray

Snitch Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, February 22, 2013

“Snitch” doesn’t have a clue what type of movie it wants to be. A cautionary tale? An actioner? A domestic drama? A political statement? It’s a muddle of ideas and moods, and too many of them are not worth the price of admission. Despite a passionate performance from Dwayne Johnson and a few provocative ideas floating around the production, “Snitch” takes an interesting story and renders it impotent, trying too hard to appeal to the widest possible audience with difficult material. It’s broad and brawny, dealing with a subject matter that requires a fine touch of intimacy and stillness. No amplification was necessary.

Agreeing to accept a shipment of ecstasy, teen Jason (Rafi Gavron) is busted for trafficking and sent to jail, awaiting sentencing that could send the college-bound boy to prison for a decade. Desperate, his estranged father John (Dwayne Johnson), a successful businessman, asks United States Attorney Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) for any type of help with the matter. Since Jason refuses to snitch on potential drug buyers to help reduce his sentence, John offers to take his place, putting himself into the line of fire as a drug mule for local crime lord Malik (Michael K. Williams), requiring an introduction from warehouse employee and former gang leader Daniel (Jon Bernthal), a reluctant man trying to rebuild his life. As John and Daniel wade into a criminal situation, DEA Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper) is wary of the outcome, warning the determined father of the trouble he’s bringing on himself. When their plan of cocaine transport is pulled off without a hitch, Malik ups the challenge, bringing in Mexican cartel leader El Topo (Benjamin Bratt) to increase the stakes, forcing Keeghan to keep John in tight with the crooks to secure a more crippling bust.

“Snitch” opens with a “true story” label, though it’s impossible to know exactly what that means with an undemanding movie such as this. Aiming to land somewhere between a family drama and a suspense picture, the effort has the general carriage of Hollywood fiction, sustaining a melodramatic mood that’s quite punishing at times, as director (and former stuntman) Ric Roman Waugh is unable to pull anything out of his actors outside of the most obvious reactions, with Johnson working overtime to communicate John’s anguish with the situation, while Bernthal overacts with less appeal, turning Daniel’s heart-wrenching dilemma of criminal resurgence into overemphatic blasts of indication. The ensemble isn’t at the top of their game here, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a leader behind the camera to help shape their emoting, finding Waugh too enamored with the mechanics of the drug trade to keep his film as human as possible.

The screenplay by Justin Haythe and Waugh is dispiritingly simplistic in terms of characterization. John isn’t just an average guy, he’s a self-made blue collar businessman in Missouri, building an ironclad reputation for honesty. Jason isn’t just your average crook, he’s a first-time offender who’s never hurt a fly, only accepting the ecstasy due to peer pressure. Daniel isn’t just a two-time felon with still-fresh connections to the Midwest drug trade, but an aching family man who just needs a break to get his boy out of criminal reach. Everyone is noble, everyone is true, keeping “Snitch” surprisingly colorless when it comes to panicky motivation, draining realism out of a film that’s eager to trumpet its significance. The criminal players are handled with an equally cartoon touch, branded with the same loquaciousness, stylishness, and thugged-out menace as seen in hundreds of movies on the topic. “Snitch” should have grit and surprise, with John’s descent into the world of drug trafficking filled with horrific details and conflicted, untrustworthy players. Instead, Waugh makes a glorified television movie.

“Snitch” is ultimately too tidy of a movie, reducing the John’s life-smearing trouble to a climatic car chase and shootout, also pursuing something of a happy ending when, in reality, the character would have watch his back every single day for the rest of his life. Waugh ends the film with a condemnation of U.S. first-offense prison sentences, though he fails to explain where the outrage should be hurled. Should we be furious with the laws? The policymakers? The parents? Or the profoundly moronic kid who willingly accepts a football-sized bag of drugs at his mother’s home? “Snitch” doesn’t have the sophistication to attack the issues and still register as a searing dramatic statement of parental love. By the time Johnson plays fetishized smash-em-up with gun-toting, car-flipping Mexicans, the feature has erased all its influence.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes, Rafi Gavron
Director: Ric Roman Waugh

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