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Movie Review: Snitch

By Bob Garver 

Feb. 25, 2013. “Snitch” is the epitome of a “star vehicle”. In this case the star is Dwayne Johnson. There is no reason to see “Snitch” other than Dwayne Johnson. I’ve seen some movies lately that offer zero reasons to see them, so it’s fair to say that Dwayne Johnson is better than nothing. Still, this movie was made entirely as an excuse to put Johnson’s face on a vaguely thrilling poster and get his fans into a theater to see something, anything, starring their champion.

If I could describe the mood of the film in one word, it would be “worried”. Johnson’s character John Matthews worries about his son Jason (Rafi Gavron), who has been arrested on a drug charge that carries a ten-year prison sentence. The rest of the family worries about Jason too. John worries as he meets with a crusty prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) who won’t lift a finger for Jason unless she gets some leads on some bigger criminals. So John goes undercover for the DEA to catch drug dealers, which means he has to worry about being discovered as a snitch. He learns that a dangerous cartel knows where he lives. Now he has to worry about the rest of his family. He enlists the help of a friend named Daniel (Jon Bernthal) to get him a meeting with a drug lord (Michael K. Williams) and we get some scenes of Daniel worrying about his and his family’s safety. When it begins to look like John is in danger, the other characters worry about him. Jason is worried himself, of course, but he’s taking too many prison beatings in the present to worry much about the future. Naturally it’s the bad guys who don’t do a whole lot of worrying.

It was probably all the scenes of worry that attracted Johnson to the part. He’s clearly trying to prove that he’s more than just an action star and I imagine he saw the vulnerable character as an opportunity to stretch as an actor. We see early on that he can handle emotional, dramatic scenes. And then we see him handle a similar emotional, dramatic scene. And another and another. Yes he’s good in these scenes and yes they’re different from the types of scenes he usually plays, but there’s very little variety in these scenes relative to each other.

I cannot stress how disappointed you will be if you go into “Snitch” expecting an action movie. Johnson loses the film’s only fistfight to a bunch of punks and drives away from a cartel shootout. All we really get is a crummy car chase at the end that was seemingly tacked in when somebody realized that the film was unforgivably short on car chases.

The release of “Snitch” coincides with Dwayne Johnson’s return to pro wrestling as the ever-popular WWE Superstar known as The Rock. The Rock even won the WWE Championship back in January. I’m writing this article on the night of the Oscars, and it occurs to me how similar wrestling titles are to Academy Awards. Both are symbols that recognize the holder as the greatest in their field. But neither really, objectively means anything. Neither is actually earned by besting competition, but rather awarded by a tiny group of one’s peers based on whatever criteria they choose. Both easily have the potential to be devalued; a wrestling title if it’s put on a wimp, an Oscar if it’s awarded to a ham or a hack. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be satisfied with his wrestling titles, because I don’t see him winning an Oscar anytime soon. I know he means well with “Snitch”, but the film is monotonous and uninteresting.

One and a Half Stars out of Five. 

“Snitch” is rated PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence. Its running time is 112 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.