Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Joe Bernthal
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon”)
Written by: Justin Haythe (“Revolutionary Road”) and Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon”)
Look no further than his current WWE resurgence and the fact that he has major movie roles in the next four consecutive months to tell you that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a popular guy. After making his debut in supporting roles in the early 00’s, and a strange stretch of becoming a family film star, Johnson has now worked his way to regular occurring leading-man status in action-packed films.
“Snitch” begins with Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) agreeing to receive a package of drugs and hold them for a friend. The box is tracked and Collins is arrested, falsely implicated for drug distribution, and subjected to a mandatory minimum sentencing of 10 years. To try to lessen his sentence, John Matthews (Johnson) agrees to become an informant for the DEA, a job that becomes more and more dangerous as he is forced to infiltrate the underworld of drug dealers and cartels.
Johnson, who has apparently ditched his recognizable wrestling name “The Rock” in his billing, unspectacularly gets his way through the films deeper moments. Though he has made strides as an actor since his first foray, he still doesn’t quite reach levels of legitimacy during the scenes that call for emotion. Of course, the script is at fault for some of that.
There are a couple of supporting roles that are pretty good including the ex-con employee role from Joe Bernthal, perhaps best known for his role on TV’s “The Walking Dead.” The best performance in the film goes to veteran Berry Pepper in his role as a DEA agent. Ridiculous goatee aside, Pepper is able to use his experience as a character actor to give gravitas to scenes and pull up the performances of those around him. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast including those actors who play his son, wife and ex-wife are given absolutely nothing to do throughout the duration of the film. They are simply wasted characters.
The most pressing problem with “Snitch” is the cliché, and painfully mediocre screenplay during the first half of the film. Moments of dialogue truly sound like they were constructed for a made-for-TV movie and as a result the actors (especially Johnson) struggle making an impact. One of the biggest issues with “Snitch” lies in the very motives of the protagonist. Director Ric Roman Waugh does not flesh out the relationship between Matthews and his son and despite a few scenes of father and son talking through a jail-cell phone booth, their relationship feels hollow and thin. Though he states his reasons for risking so much over and over again, it is at times difficult to buy into this relationship completely.
The second half of “Snitch” is on a slight uptick, with some mildly entertaining gunplay and action sequences. One thing that can be appreciated is Waugh’s ability to show restraint and not turn the normal everyman Matthews into some murderous badass who is suddenly a combat and strategy expert. Instead, the things Matthews does are (relatively) conceivable and the actions sequences work a little better because of that. That certainly doesn’t mean that these sequences are great, but rather decent enough to keep interest in the film.
Johnson’s presence in the film is a little flat and at times lifeless, which is curious considering Johnson’s infectious charisma is the sole reason that he was able to successfully jump from the wrestling ring to the big screen. The last frame of “Snitch” also takes the opportunity to make a social commentary statement on the war on drugs in the United States, which agree or disagree with the point, is a little annoying in its own right. Throughout the film, the messages are mixed and the plot details are often flimsy. Ultimately, “Snitch” ebbs more than it flows and the film turns out to be a forgettable addition to “The Rock’s” repertoire.