PG-13 (drug content and sequences of violence); 112 min.
As a businessman scrambling to find a way to get his son's federal prison sentence dropped, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has to play fear, tough love, pity and panic -- and he's a bit in over his head.
But that's the point of Snitch, a straight-no-chaser thriller "inspired by a true story." The pacing is off; too many scenes lack dramatic punch and play like filler. But Johnson is pretty good at being a guy in over his head, sharing scenes with flinty pros like Susan Sarandon and Benjamin Bratt.
It's a tale of a civilian who gets mixed up in the feds-versus-Mexican drug cartels war, whose "mandatory minimum sentencing" has snared John Matthews' naive 18-year-old son. The prosecutor (Sarandon) is a hard case, readying a run for Congress. So John makes a deal -- he'll get "an introduction" into that world through his construction supply business. He'll use his Jefferson City, Mo., trucks for transport, and they'll nail big players from the cartel.
Co-writer-director Ric Roman Waugh is a stuntman turned director. But he wastes a staggering amount of time setting up that scenario, and even more time getting to the point where his no-digital stunt experience pays off.
What gives it juice is the supporting cast. John Bernthal (Shane in The Walking Dead) is credibly wary as the ex-con John begs to get him in the door of the drug world. And the terrific Michael Kenneth Williams is the first dealer he meets, a guy who pulls a gun on him just to test him.
Waugh can be forgiven for giving these guys more scenes than are absolutely necessary. They're that good.
Snitch isn't a great film. But after the run of brawling, over-the-top shoot-'em-ups/drive-'em-ups that have cluttered Johnson's résumé, it's good to see him try acting, even if he is just as overmatched as the fellow he's playing.
-- Roger Moore,
McClatchy-Tribune News Service