Movie Reviews

'Snitch' (2013) Movie Review

A bit too long and a miscast Rock turn this into an at-home rental

Dwayne Johnson in Snitch
Dwayne Johnson in Snitch
Photo: Summit Entertainment

At the beginning of Snitch you'll be told it was inspired by actual events. That's true, to a limit. Yes, a man's son was wrongly accused of selling drugs after a friend set him up. As a result, the kid faced the ten year mandatory minimum for the federal crime, though he was offered a deal to help the government rack up some more convictions and decrease his sentence. He declined.

'Snitch'
Review
Grade: C

Snitch"Snitch" is a Summit Entertainment release, directed by and is rated PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence. The running time is .

The cast includes , , , , , , , , and .

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis .

From there the film and the true story radically part ways as writer/director (and one-time stuntman) Ric Roman Waugh (co-written by Justin Haythe) does his best to tell a measured dramatic thriller, but measured becomes "drawn out" as the pacing of this piece is unfortunately uneven. You can almost feel the film trying to contain itself, holding back rather than becoming the action film the trailers suggest. But if that was the goal why in the world did they cast Dwayne Johnson?

Why cast an ex-professional wrestler to star as an everyman, particularly when his talents don't exactly lend well to restrained drama. Here you have a hulk of a man whom you'd think was cast to play the role of a Rambo-esque character who will tear down the cartel or whatever else it might take to get his son out of jail. Yet, Johnson is noticeably reigned in as if held back by chains. As much as I like the guy as a charismatic action star, his rigid, action figure posture and performance just isn't cut out for this character.

As a result, Snitch pulls a fast one on your expectations and while that can work for a film, here it suffers. I'd typically applaud the decision to avoid the trappings of the one man wrecking crew genre and play it against type, but this is one role out of Johnson's reach. Had someone like Paul Giamatti been cast, maybe we'd have something to talk about.

Johnson plays the anxious father, John Matthews, who makes a deal with the D.A. (Susan Sarandon) that he'll use his trucking business to set up a local drug dealer (Michael K. Williams) in exchange for a reduction on his son's sentence. The story begins to slow once he needs the help of an ex-convict employee ("The Walking Dead" star Jon Bernthal, who's quite good) along with the fact John and his wife (Melina Kanakaredes) are separated, providing the standard, cliche narrative results.

As you'd expect, John soon finds himself in too deep, but it's too late to turn back now, and all of it is delivered at such a snail's pace I'm quite confident had 30 minutes or so been excised you'd have a much better film. As it is, at 112 minutes, we're talking about a film long enough to skip any and all action hero theatrics and tell the actual story (read about it here), getting into the dirty details, rather than escalating the picture to a ho-hum action scene and text on the screen before rolling the credits.

Snitch just plays too fast and loose with the details, particularly when it comes to the reasons for extending the narrative. I get the fact there is a point in asking the audience what good is really being done and who are the "real" bad guys -- the drug dealers or the greedy, headline-grabbing politicians -- but it all comes off as an action movie brought down by faux drama.

I did like Antonio Pinto's score and Waugh's direction was more restrained than I expected, but editing issues (one minute a location is 1,000 miles away, the next it's just a quick trip around the corner) and a camera that can't sit still are quite frustrating.

Fortunately, a few performances elevate the film and keep you watching, one being Williams as the drug dealer Malik and another being Barry Pepper as a weathered DEA agent, even though his character makes a decision midway through the film that sends it spiraling toward mediocrity while stretching out the run time. Rafi Gavron also does well as the film's convincing troubled youth.

Snitch isn't a bad film, it's a "watch it once at home" kind of movie. It's too long for its own good and it's trying too hard to be something it's not with a leading man that simply isn't... at least not here.

GRADE: C
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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

    I had the same issues basically. Though I give it a notch below at a C- probably. There were A LOT of unintentional laughs throughout for me. Including:

    "ARE THE SPRINKLERS ON!?"

    and

    *Dramatic look from Susan Sarandon after hearing the name El Topo*

    But you're right on with Bernthal. He deserves more work that's actually good.

    • Jake17

      He was one of the few good things about Season 2 of The Walking Dead. It'd be nice to see him get better roles.

  • JN Films

    I just saw the film yesterday and I thought it was pretty good. Flawed but kept me interested for the whole film. The Rock's worker (played by Jon Bernthal) and the kid who played his son were quite good. I would give this a B-/B

  • Zhash Johnson

    I understand the criticism but I thought it was a good movie.