He’s starred in some of the biggest blockbusters of the last few years with Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as in comedies such as Tooth Fairy and Get Smart but now Dwayne Johnson is stepping into unfamiliar territory, drama. Crime drama to be exact. Snitch is a surprising distance from your average Johnson action film and lends itself towards the crime genre with a distinct thriller sense about it.
Whilst Johnson will never be considered a thespian he does convince here as John, father to his estranged son Jason who gets caught in a drugs sting. Through a legal technicality his son is imposed with a hefty jail sentence but if he is able to point the finger at a drugs supplier his prison sentence will be reduced. Jason takes the honourable route and rejects the idea but John takes it upon himself to gain evidence of a local drug supplier to grant his son’s freedom.
Having the film be based on a true story along with its tone provides a realistic, ‘feet on the ground’ approach rarely seen in a Dwayne Johnson movie. It’s a step in the right direction for his acting chops and were it not for his humungous biceps and insane physique he’d be believable as an average American trucker. It’s reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger playing your average American joe with the predictable twist that he’s in fact a secret agent. During one point in Snitch Johnson is beaten by a small gang of thugs. Seeing our hero not return any blows or react in any way during this fight takes you out of the moment. The sheer size of the man doesn’t match the character we are presented with. Johnson does however have the charm to keep this movie together and creates a solid amount of sympathy and support from the audience on his quest to right this wrong.
This film certainly forces you to question the real truth of this story and makes you call into question the facts particularly in the latter half where the situation escalates to the extreme. As explosions are set off and cartel warfare breaks out around our lead character you have to ask yourself how much the script has embellished the truth behind this story. Along with a muddled ending the script is lacking in points.
Another surprise with this movie are the famous faces that continue to pop up throughout with Susan Sarandon playing a hard nosed District Attorney. The Wire star Michael K. Williams plays a mid level drug pusher, Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal impresses as the ex-con attempting to fly right and Barry Pepper joins the club as an undercover DEA agent (who it must be said stands out from the crowd with a beard more at home in the Hobbit). Unfortunately even with this impressive and eclectic cast little focus is directed to anything other than Johnson’s narrative. Bernthal’s ex-con going straight story runs parallel and does impress in moments but ultimately it pulls it’s punches and feels watered down.
One flaw to Johnsons character is the decision to go down this road in the first place. Through his actions he is putting others in danger to save his son who did after all break the law. That decision brings carnage, puts lives on the line including his own family and brings about many more risks to innocent’s involved. This selfish behaviour it has to be said didn’t endear John at all and by the end almost felt reckless.
The film could have gone down one path to make it an impressive crime thriller with an important social message but by the end does feels like a trashy action movie. Wasting much of the early dramatic scenes and opting to make Dwayne Johnson do what he does best. I appreciate the attempt from Dwayne Johnson to step into a different project with a new challenge and he comes out of the project with plenty of credit. The film itself is a serviceable thriller but nothing special. It has enough to keep you entertained to the end and is a fun mix of drama, thriller and action. Good, not great.
Snitch is released in UK cinemas from Friday.
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