Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Snitch

Judging by his recent box office success, everyone knows Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – action star.  With his imposing physicality and sharp charisma honed on a live microphone in front of a WWE crowd, he has very much earned the reputation as a franchise rehabilitator.  What gets overlooked is that Johnson has worked at his craft and turned himself into a decent actor.  In Snitch, you get a look at his improvement as he checks the fast cars and big guns at the door (for the most part), and delivers a performance that is a bit more character driven.

The plot of Snitch finds Johnson, the concerned but estranged father of an eighteen year old who mistakenly gets caught up in a drug transaction and as a result finds himself in jail and facing a ten-year sentence.  In order to reduce his son’s jail sentence, Johnson’s John Matthews strikes a deal with the District Attorney to assist in a drug bust in exchange for a reduced sentence.

As in any Dwayne Johnson movie, there are indeed gunfights and car chases, but this film is more about a father’s relationship with his son and the lengths that the father will go to protect him.  There is absolutely nothing new in this movie that you have not seen in a father/son narrative or even one centered on drug busts.  It’s pretty formulaic in both regards, but director Ric Roman Waugh does a decent job of turning out a fair B-movie action drama.  The plot and pacing remain taut as most of the fat trimmed off in the editing room.  The result is a steady growth in tension leading up to the film’s climax.  This helps offset what is for the most part an uninspired script.

Johnson’s work in this film as a concerned father is solid.  He effectively dampens his trademark over-the-top charisma to play a subdued everyman and it works just enough to make his character believable.  It’s not his most entertaining work nor is it his most impressive, but he ably carries the film on his shoulders.  I would liken his work in this film to the performances he turned in with Walking Tall and Gridiron Gang than any other in movie on his resume.  Is it a performance that saves the film from relative mediocrity?  No, but this one would by no means land him in any hall of shame. 

As for the rest of the cast, Susan Sarandon as the District Attorney is incredibly banal.  Clearly just a paycheck film for Sarandon, you almost get the feeling that she is reading her lines directly off cue cards (a la SNL).  Jon Bernthal (as an ex-con roped into helping Johnson infiltrate a drug ring) is satisfactory at best.  He seems to tap into every possible stereotype associated with his character and never elevates his performance beyond that.  Rafi Gavron, Melina Kanakaredes, and Nadine Velazquez portray various members of Johnson’s family, but none of the three do very much with the limited screen time they’ve been afforded.

The best performance from the supporting cast is delivered by Barry Pepper (as DEA Agent Cooper).  It’s not a shining example of the craft, but Pepper immerses into the role and gives it a good effort in a way that most of his fellow cast mates do not.  What his character lacks in substance and depth, he somewhat makes up for with conviction.  Still, his work is not enough to help Johnson make this film something more than just run-of-the-mill.

Ultimately, this movie has FX, TBS, TNT, et al written all over it.  Snitch is not atrocious, but there’s just not anything good enough about the movie to warrant making an effort to see it.  Even the most ardent Dwayne Johnson fan would have to admit as much.  You could literally replace this film with dozens upon dozens of titles based upon drug busts and not see any palpable difference.  Forget about this movie for now, because I am sure at some point you will run into it while flipping through the channels.  The movie should feel satisfactory, as a spur-of-the-moment viewing to offset extreme boredom.  Here’s hoping Johnson’s new movie, Fast & Furious 6 plays much better.

Not-So-Standout Performance: Benjamin Bratt.  I didn't even realize that he was in the movie.


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