Movie Review: Snitch offers minimum mandatory entertainment
Snitch is an important movie, which is unfortunate because it's also really dumb. It’s a film with a serious issue to tackle, namely mandatory minimum laws and their very serious downsides. It’s socially conscious in the same way 2008’s Rambo was about the tragedies in Burma. Much like that film, it dabbles in some very serious issues and then throws a muscle-bound action star at the problem for a simple, idealistic solution.
When Jason, the young son of John (Dwayne Johnson), accepts a package of drugs from a friend, he is immediately arrested. It turns out that when Jason’s friend was caught, he was offered less jail time if he could rat out someone else. Suddenly, Jason, a good kid with a good future, is facing 10 years in jail because he doesn’t have someone of his own to rat out. Enter his father, John, who decides he’ll use his trucking company as a way to get himself into the drug world and catch a bad guy for his son.
John goes straight to the woman in charge or reducing sentences for mandatory minimum cases. For some reason, she simply lets him endanger himself and everyone around him to save his son. Snitch is based on true events, but as messed up as drug laws in the US might be, I doubt the real events went down anything like this.
As he delves deeper and deeper, he collaborates with Shane from The Walking Dead (Jon Bernthal), sets up a deal with Malik (played by The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams), and then climbs all the way up into the midst of a serious drug cartel. The story is fun, but it really goes over-the-top in showing what John is willing to do to save his son.
It’s the overall simplicity and lack of grounding that hurts Snitch. Shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad handle the love-triangle of drug dealers, cops and the people caught in-between with depth and care that makes Snitch look like a Saturday morning cartoon.
The oafish simplicity is helped a lot by the on-screen presence of Dwayne Johnson, but a man of his stature is hard to believe as an every-man. The pedestrian outfits he wears throughout the film can’t hide The Rock underneath, but it also makes the film’s over-the-top nature more acceptable.
There is, I think, a genuine attempt to catch some of that crime drama magic that the aforementioned TV shows nail so well; occasionally, Snitch hits that mark. However, it’s just as often capable of lowering into melodrama, with characters shouting at each other in a way only actors reading from a script would do. In one scene, John reveals his plan to his wife and without even a second of contemplation she goes completely bats**t crazy on him. In another scene, Jon Bernthal enters full "crazy-Shane" mode without any build-up, and you can see the strings behind the Hollywood magic.
Snitch isn’t a smart movie, but it is fun and reasonably enjoyable. It may seem wasteful to talk about real-world topics in a Dwayne Johnson action movie, but in a similar way to Rambo, it creates a commentary that even the most casual movie-goer can appreciate. Snitch could have been a deeper, more intellectual film, but it still serves some entertaining purpose as is.