You expect a lot of things from a movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Things like action, fist fights, awesomeness and more action. You do not expect things like drama, family relationships, depth or, you know, acting. Snitch is way more of those latter things you don’t expect and way less of the things you would.
I am totally fine with Johnson pushing into a more dramatic realm, and applaud his stab at it. There’s a problem though: Snitch is damn boring when it really doesn’t have to be. It’s an aggravating situation where a film is set up perfectly to surprise you with its quality and then puts you to sleep because it can’t entertain. This isn’t a bad movie, it just moves at a pace that’s sleep inducing.
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Release Date: Feb. 22, 2013
I’m just going to get this out of the way because it’s kind of important. Dwayne Johnson is not the problem with Snitch. It’s been easy to see that the man is fantastic on screen since he makes even really bad films tolerable, but it turns out he has learned how to act a bit too. I’m not saying we’ll be seeing him at any awards shows any time soon, but in comparison to other action stars of his ilk the guy has range. Since Snitch is far more a drama/thriller than it is an action movie Johnson gets put through his paces in this film and handles some relatively deep moments really well.
Too bad it’s nearly impossible to stay interested in anything thanks to the movie’s incredibly slow pacing and almost complete lack of ability to remain engaging. The story itself offers up plenty of fodder to be tense. Based on a true story (so not really at all) the film has Johnson starring as John Matthews, whose son is arrested for drug smuggling after making a bad life decision. Due to a very strict law he faces ten years in jail unless he sntiches. Of course the kid doesn’t actually know any drug dealers and thus is stuck so, after making a deal with the DA (Susan Sarandon), John uses his trucking company to smuggle drugs as a set up to bust some drug king pins in order to get his son’s sentence reduced. He does this by getting one of his ex-con workers, Daniel James (Jon Bernthal) to team up with him and drive the drugs in one of the company’s semis.
The plot sounds like its rife with either tension or action sequences featuring large trucks, but neither really show up. The film is far too full of emotional fluff that ironically ruins all the actual emotions being developed. It could have easily had 20 minutes shaved off its nearly two hour running time and been far more successful as a drama. It also half-heartedly attempts to cram some action into the end of the film. After spending most of the movie trying to create tension and drama, the film ends in a car-flipping, explosion-filled action sequence that just feels awkward. It’s a mash up of two films that collides harder than a semi running into a parked car.
There’s also a heavy social message that is supposed to run throughout the film about the injustice of the law that has John’s son locked up. The problem is that the film doesn’t really deliver that message all that convincingly. The law itself is shunted aside until some text at the end of the movie and, more importantly, the law works. The law is designed to give criminals the maximum penalty with no exceptions unless they sntich. Theoretically criminals are more likely to actually snitch because of this and bigger busts can be made. In reality most people in jail from the law are first time offenders and the program doesn’t work all that well. However, in the film’s case it does. (Spoilers) John busts a major king pin and the hard line attitude of the DA pays off. She’s supposed to be the bad guy, but it’s hard to argue with results.
The weird thing is that despite being boring and losing its message somewhere between its sparse action sequences it was hard not to like the movie, or to be more precise it was hard not to like what the movie could have been. Johnson is supported by a pretty stellar cast who should have kept things more interesting and when the action does happen it’s enjoyable enough. There’s enough going on here to be a good movie, but it never has the ability to pull you in. Instead you’re stuck on the outside wanting to like it more because it’s clear that people were actually trying to make it good.
There’s good stuff in Snitch, it just takes too much to slog through and find it. A bit of editing down and a lot less self-importance could have made this not only a compelling drama, but a compelling argument that Johnson could be more than just an action star. Instead the film plods along, with a strong performance from Johnson buried in a boring movie that just can’t pick up the speed it needs.