Friday 9 June 2017

Movie Review: Snitch (2013)

A muddled action thriller, Snitch tries to remain grounded but offers up an unlikely plot and makes poor use of a decent cast.

John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) owns and operates a long-haul trucking company. Divorced from his first wife Sylvie (Melina Kanakaredes) and now married to Analisa (Nadine Velazquez), John is shocked when his son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is arrested on drugs charges. Jason was pressured into accepting a shipment by his overseas friend Craig, but is left with no recourse except a long stint in prison unless he helps convict other drug traffickers.

John strikes a deal with District Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to infiltrate a drug gang and help arrest an important trafficker in exchange for Jason receiving leniency. John leans on Daniel James (Jon Bernthal), a new employee with a criminal record, to connect with violent gang leader Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams). John pretends to be financially stretched and offers the services of his trucks to transport Malik's drugs. Despite the help of Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper), John and Daniel find themselves in over their heads when Mexican cartel kingpin El Topo (Benjamin Bratt) is identified as the second party in Malik's transactions.

Directed and co-written by Ric Roman Waugh, Snitch makes some unwise choices. Dwayne Johnson is admirably cast in the central role, but is then asked to portray a relatively docile, by-the-rules character chafing about the injustice of a system ready to throw his son in prison for a relatively minor offence. All credit to Johnson for willing to stretch, but in this context he lacks the screen presence or ability to play a mostly anguished dramatic role.

Snitch then idles and waits for the best part of 100 minutes until John Matthews gets frustrated enough to pick up a shotgun, get behind the wheel of large truck, take justice into his own hands, and teach not one but two heavily armed gangs not to mess with an angry father. By then the film has been tied up in knots made up of rival nondescript bad guys, with small detours to the prison holding Jason and the domestic lives of John and Daniel to fill the time. Neither the script nor the performances of the willing cast are strong enough to build genuine empathy for the characters.

Susan Sarandon mails in her performance as a testy District Attorney. The rest of the cast bite into their roles but cannot overcome mostly stale lines and the overall absurdity of the premise and execution.

Snitch ends with an overdue bang, but by then it's the hollow sound of indifference.

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