Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/22/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Crime thrillers set against the world of narcotics don't usually question the wisdom of contemporary law enforcement. The screen is generally filled with vicious bad guys -- usually Hispanics in designer duds sporting flashy armaments -- and beleaguered, outgunned cops, not as sartorially splendid, Miami Vice notwithstanding.
Whatever its faults -- and there are a few -- the movie Snitch does dare to suggest the war on drugs exacts collateral damage well beyond the traditional combatants.
Jason (Rafi Gavron) is a teenage kid finagled into accepting a shipment of ecstasy pills from his best friend. The shipment comes with a platoon of DEA agents who promptly arrest him. He is suddenly looking at a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, unless he can deliver the goods on an actual drug dealer.
Since he doesn't actually know any drug dealers, and refuses to set up any of his friends in the way he was set up, it looks like Jason is going to serve some hard time.
Enter Jason's estranged dad, John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), a construction company owner desperate to save his son. John decides that if his son can't deliver a drug lord, he will. John makes a deal with the ruthlessly ambitious district attorney (Susan Sarandon) and a weedy DEA agent (Barry Pepper).
To gain entrance to the criminal underworld, he drafts the help of Daniel (Jon Bernthal), an unwitting ex-con in his employ, to provide an introduction to a prize drug dealer.
While desperate to leave his criminal past behind, Daniel agrees. But in carrying out this charade of a drug deal, they find themselves caught up with a bigger fish, a Mexican cartel boss (Benjamin Bratt) who proves to be irresistible to the DA.
John Matthews, regular guy, is now in well over his head.
The main problem with this scenario is that Dwayne Johnson does not pass as a regular anything. He has the pumped-up frame of a pro wrestler. And he has a CV filled with outsize action movies befitting his outsize action moves.
Johnson is admirably looking for a dramatic role that allows him to express something other than comic amazement (Race to Witch Mountain) or stern vengeance (Faster). Here, he gets to shed a manly tear and pretend to get beat up by some puny street hoodlums.
The problem is that he looks like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and he simply can't pass muster as an average Joe. His screen presence is constantly fighting the image of normalcy. You might as well cast Roger Rabbit in the role and call the movie Undercover Bunny.
Otherwise, director Ric Roman Waugh (who co-scripted with Justin Haythe) has fashioned a decent enough thriller that pointedly suggests the war on drugs is hopelessly compromised, corrupt and unwinnable.
If Johnson had switched roles with, say, Barry Pepper, Waugh might have actually sold the premise.
Selected excerpts of reviews of Snitch:
Waugh is more interested in inspirational melodrama and clumsy social commentary than inrousing action.
-- Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly
This movie executes two missions: A) to entertain us; and B) to put some big exclamation points on a couple of messages about certain drug laws in this country in need of a thorough re-examination.
-- Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Designed to make empathetic citizens question the system, this strangely compelling issue pic plays less to auds' hearts than to their craving for testosterone...
-- Peter Debruge, Variety
A straight-no-digital-chaser actioner, with the most subtle Dwayne Johnson performance ever.
-- Roger Moore, Movie Nation
Starring Dwayne Johnson and Jon Bernthal
McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne
21Ñ2 stars out of five
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2013 D5
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' sweeps Sundance Awards
Brief Encounter lingers on
Sundance closing-night film, 'Grandma' showcases Lily Tomlin
Obama, Cooper push for media help in better vet portrayal
Comedian Tig Notaro star of Sundance doc, host of awards
'Ida' takes an unlikely road to the Academy Awards
James Franco tries to move beyond "The Interview"
Exploring dark side of the soul makes for uneasy viewing
Story requires a few more shades of grey
Film's dirty business should be more entertaining
Sundance First Look: Pearce, Smulders get rom com 'Results'
Worker dies on Taiwan film lot to be used for Scorsese movie
New on DVD/VOD
First Look: 'Dope' is fresh, funny and music-filled
For Sundance hits, theatrical still rules over VOD
'Ghostbusters' cast set with McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, Jones
Prosecutor: Gregg Allman filmmaker never given immunity
Review: Something's missing from the deck in 'Wild Card'
'Selma' star supports Cumberbatch over "colored" comment
Review: Tragedies of 'Timbuktu' told with rare beauty
Review: A tired gimmick weakens thriller 'Project Almanac'
Diversity at Sundance doesn't carry over to Hollywood
Sundance Watch: Celebs talk fest, iPhone film premieres
Sundance Watch: 'Tangerine' shot entirely with iPhones
Sundance Quick Quote: Spike Lee discovers crowd funding
Sundance Watch: Redford brings film to his own festival
Private jets, mega yachts marketed at Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Quick Quote: Rashida Jones on porn, sex and women
Common, John Legend to perform 'Glory' at Academy Awards
Sundance Watch: 'Me and Earl' becomes breakout hit at fest
'Django Unchained' actress pleads not guilty to lewd conduct
Sundance Watch: Celebrities sound off on the fest
Review: 'Black or White' wrestles with race in custody drama
Adrian Grenier enjoys anonymity on empty slopes at Sundance
Audrey Tautou, Matthew Weiner among Berlin film fest jury
So it is written...
Death From Above doc screens at Cinematheque
Sundance Watch: Fans angle for selfies, Reynolds talks poker