When Will We, As A Nation, Stop Snitching? To be honest with you, I never knew this was a thing. Like, when I was a kid, we all knew from hours spent watching Kojak and The Rockford Files that witnesses were always to afraid to talk. Was there some surge of conscience in the '80s and '90s that I missed?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half bags of cement out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Burly trucking company owner agrees to set up drug dealers to free son from looming mandatory minimum sentencing, glares a lot.
Tagline: "How far would you go to save your son?"
Better Tagline: "How big of a dumbass is the son in question?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Jason Matthews (Rafi Gavron) is busted by the DEA after his friend mails him 7,000 Ecstasy pills and subsequently rats him out. He's facing a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in federal prison unless he fingers someone higher up, which of course he can't do. Now it's up to his dad John (Dwayne Johnson), who agrees to work with the U.S. Attorney (Susan Sarandon) to go undercover and make arrests to reduce Jason's sentence. What could possibly go wrong?
Can You, In Fact, Smell What The Rock Is Cooking? Please, this is a serious film. The name is Dwayne Johnson.
"Critical" Analysis: There should be a Constitutional amendment preventing Johnson from playing "Everyman" characters. No amount of sensible cotton button-down shirts or understated sports coats can hide the fact the guy is built like, well, a professional wrestler. Whatever Snitch's other flaws (and there are several), one of the most glaring is how we never for one second doubt "John Matthews" -- his chest and deltoids straining mightily against any fabric draped across his torso -- will come out on top.
He's setting an unrealistic standard for middle-aged fathers everywhere, dammit.
Which is too bad, because for all the Fast and the Furious marketing, Snitch wants to be a message movie. It's produced by Participant Media, the company behind such other consciousness-raising films as Syriana, The Cove, Fair Game, and, uh, Furry Vengeance. PM very much wants to hammer home the capriciousness of mandatory minimums, even for those whose only crime was being an idiot (Jason could've saved himself and his dad a great deal of hassle if he'd just told the delivery guy he had the wrong address for those pills he told his friend not to ship in the first place).
On another level, Snitch is about fatherhood. Johnson is the extreme example of parenting responsibility, endangering life and limb (and his new wife and daughter -- he and Jason's mom are divorced) to save his boy from a decade of beatings and worse. Then you have Matthews' new employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal). a two-striker trying to stay on the straight and narrow for his own little boy. Even cartel boss "El Topo" (Benjamin Bratt) tries, in his own odd way, to impart crucial life lessons on his own son.
So the answer to the question posed by the movie's poster -- how far would you go save your son (and daughter, we'll just throw that in there)? -- is obvious. In Matthews' case, he'll use his trucking company to offer local drug dealer Malik (played by The Wire's Michael K. Williams) transportation for his product. The problem comes when Malik's cartel bosses realize how useful having a dedicated tractor-trailer service at their disposal can be, and when U.S Attorney Keeghan realizes she has a shot at taking down a cartel boss.
On a side note, the scene where Matthews searches for "cartels" on Wikipedia is as (unintentionally) hilarious as Michael Bolton looking up "money laundering" in the dictionary.
The movie hits each note on schedule so reliably you could set your watch by them, if anyone still wore watches. There are no surprises, no twists, and nothing original. Snitch could have been made 15 years ago and would still have felt dated (except for the Wikipedia stuff). And as an added insult, nearly every bit of action in the film can be seen in the trailer, lest you think you're in for 90 minutes of Road Warrior style highway carnage.
And what a waste of an actor of Williams' caliber. This is Omar, people, and you've got him saying shit like, "Now you in the game, playa," and "That's a straight bum rush." Writer Justin Haythe must have written this right after his first listen of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.
Snitch is in theaters today. See it, don't see it, just keep it to yourself.
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