Friday, February 22, 2013

Movie Review: Snitch

There didn’t seem to be much hype about Snitch, the newest movie from Dwayne Johnson (née The Rock) and this film appears to be a bit different than what we have seen of him thus far. In it, Johnson plays John Matthews, a middle-class businessman whose life is suddenly thrust into the seedy world of the drug culture in the United States. When his son his implicated for drug trafficking and arrested, Matthews goes undercover to infiltrate a drug cartel and bring down as many as he can to clear his son’s name.

According to the opening titles, the film is based on a true events. While no real person named John Matthews probably undercover to save his son, the film's concept was based on a Frontline documentary. Recent changes to Federal drug laws has made snitching on accomplices appealing, as it will reduce the sentencing for an incarcerated individual. No doubt, many people have taken advantage of this.

Overall, I thought it was pretty compelling. We don’t get a lot about the background of Johnson’s character, but I think it’s meant for us to focus in the action that is occurring at that moment. What we do find out, however, is that Matthews is divorced. His son lives with his ex-wife (Malina Kanakaredes) and he has a new family. This seems to have put a strain on his old family, made up of Jason and Sylvie. The son turns to friends with whom he experiments with drugs and his mom blames herself for it.

We see a side of Johnson in this movie that he doesn’t show in most of his films. He’s a businessman, a family man, determined to provide a good life for his family. This is a lot different than his wresting persona The Rock. There’s a softer side to him in some of his comedies, but Snitch was drama and action through and through. There are tender moments as he comes to terms with his son’s arrest, but the rest of the time you’re on the edge of your seat as his character goes inside of the drug cartel. In order to clear his son’s name, he must snitch on as many people as he can. In this world, nothing is guaranteed. It’s a high risk, high reward and he’s not sure if he’ll get the big payoff he’s after.

Sylvie (Kanakaredes ) wasn’t a prominent role, neither was Analisa (Nadine Velazquez) who was John Matthews’ new wife. The chief players in the film really were Johnson’s character, Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), and Daniel James, played by Jon Bernthal. Daniel was a worker in the construction yard of Matthews’ company and in order to try to get an introduction with drug traffickers, he inlists Daniel’s help. Keeghan (Sarandon) was the Federal Prosecutor who was assigned to Jason’s case. She is a highly political figure, using her stance against drugs as a platform to launch herself into a Senate seat. Sarandon is really great as Keeghan and she truly brings out the scheming politician really well. Benjamin Bratt also shows up as Juan Carlos 'El Topo' Pintera, a kingpin of an infamous drug cartel out of Mexico. He and his merry band of thugs are fairly hardcore.

This isn’t the typical movie that I would see in theaters, let alone review. However, I was intrigued because it’s Dwayne Johnson and I have always been a big fan of Susan Sarandon. I think that there were some great moments of edge-of-your-seat action. I listen to a lot of NPR and they often talk about the problems with drug cartels and trafficking into Mexico. I don’t think that this movie will necessarily change that, but it did provide statistics about first time offenders and how laws make the sentences for first time offenses longer than even rape and manslaughter.

If you’re interested in movies that are more action than drama, Snitch is definitely one to see. Johnson is definitely honing his acting chops and it’s really showing. I was very pleased with his performance.

I saw Snitch at a screening at AMC Newport 20 courtesy of Gofobo and Summit Entertainment. The pass was free, but I received no monetary compensation for this review other than the value of the movie pass. The only thing that took away from my total enjoyment was a rude employee of the theater. Everyone else was really nice.

Images courtesy of Gofobo, Flicks and Bits, The Advocate, Star Pulse.

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