Snitch is a melodramatic family drama welded, not too comfortably, onto a suspense thriller, under the heading of “inspired by a true story”.
When successful businessman, John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) discovers his estranged son, Jason (Rafi Gavron) has been busted for drug trafficking, he brokers a deal with Attorney Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to help DEA Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper) take down the local crime boss, Malik (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Kenneth Williams).
Gritty realism is established off the bat courtesy of drunken cameraman cinematography, where even a medium shot of two people sitting on a park bench proves a challenge to frame.
Central to not being able to take the film too seriously, however, is star Dwayne Johnson. It isn’t that Johnson’s performance is lacking sympathy - his sincerity comes through loud and clear – but it’s impossible to accept him as an average in-over-his-head, hard working father when you know The Rock could take this sissy drug cartel with one hand tied behind his back.
Sarandon and Pepper join Johnson and the terrific Michael K Williams in trying to give the illusion of dramatic stakes higher than Justin Haythe and Ric Roman Waugh’s pedestrian screenplay ever allows. Players on both sides of the law are painted broadly, lacking the depth or ambiguity that would have leant realism and upped tension, and serious social issues are never allowed to get in the way of entertainment.
This is much smaller scale than we’ve come to expect from Johnson, yet it’s still very much a vehicle for The Rock. Also credited as one of the film’s producers, there’s a not too subtle message that’s obviously important to him, and The Rock’s point is a blunt one: Drugs are bad, with devastating implications not only to yourself but for all those who love you.
Had the film starred a heavy hitter like Russell Crowe or Denzel the tone would have been very different, but if a simple plot containing minimal violence, less bad language than you’ll hear in the new Star Trek, and the presence of The Rock ensures his important message reaches it’s at-risk youthful audience I’d consider it a job well done.