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With Dwayne Johnson being one of the biggest stars in Hollywood over the past few years when you hear he is in another film you do have to stop and wonder if it is going to be a good one or him taking the chance to get his paydays in whilst he is the toast of the town but Snitch thankfully appears to be one he has chosen based on its strengths over its financial rewards. The story of the film (one based around true life events) sees Jason (Rafi Gavron) get busted for dealing of narcotics (despite not being involved in distribution himself) when his friend sets him up so he can reduce his own sentence. Thanks to the newly introduced laws in the US Jason is to serve 10 years as a minimum unless he works with the state to get to the big drug players but he refuses to be a snitch. Jason''s mother Sylvie Collins (Melina Kanakaredes) decides that with all that is happening with her son she needs to call her ex-husband, John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), who is running his own construction firm and has little to do with his son for a while now. John decides that he needs to do something to help his son and so meets with the US attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) who says if he is willing to help to bring down one of the major drug dealers then his sons sentence can be reduced and John accepts the deal on offer. I will not go into any further details other than to say the rest of the film follows John and his pursuit of getting his son out of prison as soon as possible. The film is based around a true story and so it is hard to comment on the storyline too much but I must say that they have ensured the film does flow well and that it has a storyline which is easy to follow. The filming has been done to ensure it has atmospheric scenes when they are appropriate as well as action scenes as the film develops and so this is not one to expect to be full action which I know for many people will disappoint people who have seen the trailer and expected a pure fest of action. I was very impressed with the casting and the fact that the acting throughout the film was of the very highest standard. Dwayne Johnson was extremely impressive and proves he can perform well in roles that aren''t all about action scenes which is what he is mainly known for due to the bulging muscles having got him those kind of roles. Overall for me the film flowed really well and was superb. I do have to say that for some it would probably feel like it did got a little slow at some points which I would fully agree with but I think these parts were needed to make the story flow fully. The action scenes were well put together and executed which is something I love as whilst I don''t watch many action films I do hope for well put together action in those I do see. Overall this is film well worth seeing but please don''t expect the entire film to be action throughout as the trailer suggests as this is a film with a story to it too rather than just being purely action.
Just because Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is headlining a film that contains the plot of drug-trafficking, doesn't automatically turn this into an action-packed ride. Which is a great surprise, since Johnson is taken out of his usual comfort zone, and his role here actually requires him to show a range of emotions to sell this story that is based on true events. And it's certainly a change in gear that he handles extremely well, as with Snitch, Johnson shows that he has more to offer than his macho side throwing punches.
As an owner of a construction business, John (Johnson) is leading a quiet life and he wants to keep it this way. This is until his son Jason (Rafi Gavron) makes the mistake of getting mixed up with the wrong crowd and ultimately, drug smuggling. After his arrest, the minimum-sentence law states that faces ten years in jail - seems harsh, but that's what the local US Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) and her tough anti-drug stance is insisting takes place, no exceptions allowed. The way to reduce sentencing is for Jason to assist in making significant arrests of big players in the drug scene. But he refuses to be an informer - so his father volunteers his services. He will go undercover, make some deals that will hopefully end in arrests big enough for the US Attorney to be more lenient.
Perhaps The Rock could be seen as a bit of a miscast here - anyone who messes with The Rock's family in any standard action vehicle would have around an hour or so before he comes violently knocking. But here, John is an utterly ordinary businessman, with very little skills required to lead a one-man army. In fact we even see the mighty Rock get beaten down by a group of thugs as he unwisely tries to enter the drug world by himself, not knowing what to say and who to approach.
Help is at hand however, as John reaches out to an ex-convict employee of his who has a history of drug dealing. Wanting to stay clean, start over, and avoid his third strike, Daniel (Jon Bernthal) reluctantly agrees, not fully aware of John's true intentions. John will also receive tactical support from Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper), and so the dangerous assignment begins.
Essentially the message that is repeatedly used throughout is the fact that fathers are willing to do anything for the benefit of their families. And we see several examples of fathers doing whatever is necessary - the most obvious one here is John, Daniel also has a son and wife to support, the same goes for the drug kingpin they're trying to take down, Juan Carlos "El Topo" Pintera (a very well-cast Benjamin Bratt sporting a thick Hispanic accent that perfectly suits him). Very little time is spent on Pintera, the antagonist, and it's all about the "good" guys put in impossible situations, getting in way over their heads.
There are tonal inconsistencies largely due to the film not quite being able to balance the thriller side to the more grounded drama aspect. It's better in giving us the tense excitement even with a relatively tight budget - the inevitable final highway chase involving a shootout is on a small scale, with very little gimmick and yet is able to deliver some quality action. The many stand-offs between the good guys and bad also have effective input in working towards a climax, more so since we've already seen just how vulnerable John is in this unpredictable criminal world.
Less well done is the film's focus on the individual characters themselves. Even though the ensemble doesn't look at all crowded, the film struggles to throw in a variety and the running theme becomes very tiresome and repetitive. Yes, yes, the incredibly dedicated fathers are doing this amazing thing, but what we don't need is a constant reminder of the struggling children and wives who we start to feel less and less sorry for the more we see them take up the screen time. The only element setting John and Daniel apart, it seems, is the amount of money they have overall. John is comfortable financially, Daniel is not, and lives in a slightly rough neighbourhood. Other than this minor difference, there is very little that actually separates the two as different characters.
More frustrating is the under-use of the most talented member in the cast, Sarandon. With a potentially juicy role as an ambitious, cut-throat political ladder climber who is initially solely invested in this case for her gain, she barely features on the screen. Granted, whenever she does turn up she has some ice-cold dialogue to spit out, but given the talent she possesses, this is no doubt a role that is far too simple and underdeveloped, given how much time is given to other less important players.
Ending the film is a slightly bizarre caption that states a statistic that first-time non-violent drug offenders often receive longer, harsher sentences on average than those convicted of rape of manslaughter - which makes us beg the question: so what? That little preachy quote seems highly out of place after all the film has done to not get overly sentimental, and makes you question the point and perhaps any agenda the film was loading beforehand. Yes, the flaws in the justice system are somewhat hinted at - making deals with the prosecution, even the worst convicts can escape the maximum prison sentencing, but as Captain Doyle Franks said, "like everything human, justice is imperfect. It's flawed." And it's just one of those things we have to live with. The fact that is wants us to sympathise somehow, at the very end of the film no less, puts an awkward spin on the finale as the credits start to roll.
But overall it's a film full of pleasant surprises. Most noticeable is Johnson's transformation and that he doesn't look at all out of place in a role that shows a lot more weakness than brute strength. This goes to show he's far from the action star one-trick pony we all thought he was, and to witness that alone is worth the film's running time.