Inspired by true events, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in the new crime drama/thriller Snitch, the story of a man who goes undercover for the DEA in order for his son to be released from prison.
It was hard to tell based on the trailers which direction this movie was going to go in. Although a good actor, “The Rock” has become notorious for appearing in seemingly hyper-real action movies based on true stories that are likeable, but hard to love. His performance, as well as the rest of the entire cast was electric to go along with an emotional story that (thankfully) stayed away from Johnson single-handedly dismantling gangs of foes, and stuck to how far a man will go to save his son.
Johnson plays John Matthews, a hard-working, wealthy construction owner whose son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is arrested by the DEA after his best friend sets him up by asking him to receive and hold a package of pills for him. Jason refuses to help the DEA by setting any of his friends up to reduce his own sentence, so John takes it upon himself to help them in his place. With the assistance of his construction company’s yard worker and ex-con Daniel James (Jon Bernthal, The Walking Dead) he is introduced to the brutal gangster and narcotics dealer Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams, Brooklyn’s Finest), but quickly finds himself in over his head.
Despite the “inspired by true events” tag, I still expected some signature over-the-top action sequences that come with many “Rock” films. Kudos to director Ric Roman Waugh for taking that expectation, flushing it, and instead providing us with drama sprinkled with more realistic action footage, and subtle suspense that puts this picture on the fence directly between crime drama and thriller. I feel like most movies, if not all, you can get a certain sense of how it’s going to end based on personal theories. However, even near the end I was glued to the screen waiting in anticipation of what the finale would entail.
I’ve always thought that the “The Rock” was an underrated actor. Sure, he can be found in incredibly odd roles like a hockey player/tooth fairy (Tooth Fairy), mysterious island adventurer (Journey to the Center of the Earth 1&2), or a Las Vegas cab driver helping two paranormal children (Race to Witch Mountain), but what’s wrong with making movies for kids? His better roles in Walking Tall, Gridiron Gang, The Rundown, and The Scorpion King might exhibit far-fetched action sequences at times, yet people have to remember he got his start as a wrestler. Plus, take the exaggerated action with a grain of salt and you’ll almost always receive great performances matched with messages anyone can relate to in their lives.
As of late, many movies have been stacked with all-star casts, and even though this wasn’t one of them, those who were in it had great chemistry and produced intense performances all around. Susan Sarandon (Jeff, Who Lives at Home) was a perfect fit as strictly business U.S. attorney Joanne Keeghan, while Barry Pepper (True Grit) was outstanding as head DEA Agent Cooper. They were both gritty, real, and some of the things that Pepper’s character says really makes you realize the gravity of the situations in the drug and crime world.
Jon Bernthal really grabbed mine and a lot of other people’s attentions as Shane in the first two seasons of AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead. He was a good choice for the role of Daniel the ex-con, and he not only works well with Johnson, but you can really feel the emotion and struggles he faces as his character’s world is continuously flipped upside down against his will. Even though Jason is only in the beginning and a few scenes once he’s in jail, Rafi Gavron fits right in with the other mainly veteran cast, and has some great father-son dialogue with Johnson.
An honestly refreshing side to this movie is the depiction of hardships revolving around the families involved.
Johnson’s character is divorced and Jason lives with his mom; the disconnect between the two is truly saddening and both men are caught admitting things to each other that only this kind of eye-opening situation could force. Bernthal’s character is trying to stay clean and away from gang-related activity, but is reeled back in much to the dislike of his wife, putting both of them and his young son in harm’s way. There are truly powerful emotions at times from both actors, and I myself was caught appreciating my own father more than once throughout, hoping he would go to the same lengths if I were in need.
Snith hasn’t received outstanding reviews or ratings, but if you can appreciate powerful performances, a gripping story inspired by true events, and Dwayne Johnson and Co. at their best, you’ll enjoy it. Seven out of 10.