Film: "Snitch"; Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon, Rafi Gavron, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes and Nadine Valazquez; Director: Ric Roman Waugh; Rating: *1/2
"Snitch" starts off as a social drama and turns into a crime thriller. It is a lengthy, talky melodrama into which a couple of skilled stunt sequences are crammed.
Based on true events, "Snitch" is the story of how John Mathews (Dwayne Johnson), a small business owner in the construction trade takes great risk in a desperate attempt to save his college bound son, Jason (Rafi Gavron) from being wasted in prison after his son's close friend Craig snitches on him.
The reason why John does this is because he believes his son did a "dumb naive mistake". And he wants to fight against the unfairness of the mandatory 10-year sentence for possessing drugs in sufficient quantity to be peddled.
The federal prosecutor Joanne Keegan (Susan Sarandon) refuses to budge on mandatory minimum sentencing unless she can obtain more convictions out of it and since Jason truly does not know anyone in the business. John goes as an undercover himself and touches base with Daniel James (Jon Bernthal), an ex-convict employee and goes about ingratiating himself with the criminal element in order to pay it forward, judicially speaking.
Literally and figuratively, the best scene in "Snitch" is the last one! Where a battered John along with his entire family awaits Jason's release, the father-son bonding at the end surely moves you. But to watch the entire journey that Senior Mathews goes through, is rather painful and torturous. The narration is more dull than dynamic; filled with cliched scenes of parents blaming each other for missed opportunities and misguided priorities, as well as the ex-convicts arguing over their newfound route along the road to the straight and narrow and most of all, watching the entire film in a darkly lit screen.
Visually, the movie is all over the place. While Waugh allows us full, loving glimpses of John's car, or the action-filled automobile stunts, when it comes to people having deep, painful conversations, we get fractions of faces. When John owns up to what an absent dad he's been to Jason, in an emotional talk over the prison telephones, we see mostly backs of heads. There is some hand-held camera work, but only at precisely the moment when there's action you might want a decent look at. Things we don't need to see, like John looking through old job applications to find someone who checked the felony conviction box, get far too much attention. And then there are the prop and costume cliches.
The bad guy clutches a rosary. Daniel puts up his hoodie whenever he's feeling criminal. During a visit to Daniel's apartment, the dialogue takes a back seat to car alarms and police sirens. The picture of the underworld and its labyrinthine connections is straight out of a hundred other movies. Worse, everything is so convenient. In his quest for gritty authenticity, Waugh has fussed over the details which are not seamy, they are silly.
As for the acting, Johnson does not steal the show from anyone since there is no character strong enough to combat him.
Those expecting a non-stop rollercoaster ride of cheap thrills and shrills look out for other alternatives.