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Review: Snitch – The Rock cooks up a stinky rat

Posted by on February 22, 2013 – 12:05 am

Snitch Dwayne Johnson, who despite his best efforts to reclaim his birth moniker will forever be known as “The Rock,” takes a stab at straight dramatic acting in Snitch, but the results of the WWE wrestler’s current cinematic cookery are pretty bland and missing some key action ingredients.

The Rock has potential to be one of the greatest action heroes of all time. He has the physical stature and presence of Schwarzenegger in his heyday, plus acting chops that are at least the equivalent of Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis. Given the right material, which he hasn’t found yet, Mr. Johnson could really be one of the best ever – but he’s got to remember to play to his strengths. I don’t think the ambitious actor will ever be accepted as an “everyman” and that is the biggest flaw in Snitch.

I didn’t believe for a minute that Johnson wasn’t completely capable of mopping up the bad guys before his morning coffee, but early on some petty sidewalk thugs unbelievably beat the snot out of our hero before he is saved by a passing cop car. That just didn’t work for me and I don’t think the fledgling action star believed it either.

Snitch is allegedly based on true events and a PBS Frontline documentary, also called “Snitch,” about mandatory minimum sentences for first time drug offenders and how they are pressured into giving up the goods on their associates, whether those people are actually guilty of anything or not.

In this film John Matthews’ (Johnson) son (Rafi Gavron) is sent a box of narcotics from one of his friends who is working undercover as a snitch in a federal sting operation. As soon as the boy opens the package he is snagged by the DEA and even though he had no intent to traffic the drugs he still faces a mandatory sentence of ten years unless he further implicates other people.

SnitchThe problem is that the boy is innocent except for some light drug use and legitimately doesn’t know any drug dealers. The heartless federal prosecutor, Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), has political aspirations and isn’t going to budge on her tough stance towards drug offenders; so she doesn’t care that the kid can’t deliver additional dopers to her and she is perfectly fine with seeing him locked up for a long time.

Matthews takes matters into his own hands and makes a deal with Keeghan to deliver some local dealers in return for a reduction of his son’s sentence. The man uses a low brow ex-con who works for his construction company, Daniel James (Jon Bernthal from The Walking Dead), to make a connection with the local drug lord and he’s soon transporting drugs and cash for a Mexican drug cartel.

The two men find themselves deeper and deeper into the dark world of drug dealings and attorney Keeghan keeps pushing them for more evidence until their families are in serious danger as well. Finally, after realizing they can no longer trust the government to protect them, the men have to take matters into their own hands.

Although this story is based on real events I found the concept of the government sanctioning civilians to do their dirty detective work to be rather implausible. However, seeing the legal process play havoc with innocent families’ lives did ring true in that the family is often undeservedly treated as poorly as the prisoner.

SnitchThe supporting cast of Snitch includes the talented Barry Pepper (Battlefield Earth) as a derelict-looking DEA agent, television veteran Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) with very little screen time as the cartel kingpin “El Topo” and Michael K. Williams (Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire) is the local drug lord Malik. The film was written and directed by former movie stuntman, Ric Roman Waugh.

If not for Dwayne Johnson’s involvement Snitch would likely have been just another network TV movie-of-the-week instead of a feature film. It’s a decent enough crime thriller, but fans of The Rock are likely to be very disappointed with this wussyish dramatic effort. I give the man credit for playing against type and trying something different, but as another great action hero once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Grade: 5/10

ROCKING NEWS: Don’t despair “Rock” fans, there are some more Rockcentric efforts from Mr. Johnson on the near horizon. (Although I’m deeply disappointed that he is distancing himself from a potential Lobo movie, as the “Main Man” role would be perfect fit for him.) G.I. Joe: Retaliation is up in March, Pain & Gain in April and Fast & Furious 6 arrives this May. He even has a Hercules film in the works for 2014.

Photos © 2013 – Summit Entertainment, LLC.