‘Snitch’ Movie Review – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Just when I give up. Right when I expect every single action movie (especially at this time of the year) to be mediocre at best, Snitch proves me wrong. While it’s certainly not an A+ movie, it’s surprising enough to praise. “Surprising” isn’t hard-and-fast criteria to being “good” but I’ll take the little victories when I can get them.
The movie starts with a drug bust reminiscent (shooting style-wise) of Narc, which stands as one of my all-time favorite drug movies. After the bust of a teenager (Rafi Gavron) for conspiracy to distribute narcotics, his father, John (Dwayne Johnson), must go undercover within the drug cartel to reduce his son’s sentence.
Interestingly enough, my biggest issue with the movie is the premise because if you think about it too much, it doesn’t really make sense. Touting the dangerous “inspired by true events” tag and rolling some very pointed credits at the end, the true intentions are pretty obvious. Social justice (or in this case, social injustice) is surely something film should tackle; however, the premise takes it a little too far. Do people get screwed over in the justice system? Definitely. Do prosecutors have the power to essentially blackmail the victim’s family? That’s pushing it.
Despite this pretty glaring shortcoming, the movie somehow still works! Most of the reason is the focus on the characters and their struggles, rather than what so many drug and crime movies think is most important – action. When they finally do get around to the gunshots and car explosions, the audience isn’t nearly as desensitized to the action.
Breaking it down further, Johnson is the main reason the character arcs work. It’s easy to dismiss “The Rock” as an actor because he often plays similar roles. Here, he’s much more restrained, thus he feels a lot more genuine. Likewise, John’s introduction into the drug world, an ex-con named Daniel (Jon Bernthal), and the main DEA agent (Barry Pepper) add plenty of heart to the story. The same unfortunately can’t be said about his relationships with the family, but you win some, you lose some, right?
Director Ric Roman Waugh doesn’t have the most extensive filmography – I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of him before this – but I’m impressed with how he crafted the picture. Say what you want about the premise and some of the character choices, but he framed the action shots fantastically. Especially in regards to the shaky-cam scenes (like the opening drug bust), Waugh seemed intentional not to overdo anything.
Maybe “restrained” will be the best way to describe Snitch. So many times we’ve seen a movie (or even just the trailer) and knew what would happen and how. This premise didn’t seem all that earth-shattering, but I’ll be the first to admit enough of it worked. Sure, there were ways to make it even better, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Ric Roman Waugh gives us some great action sequences, but surprisingly enough, that’s not what comes first in the movie. That statement alone is enough to overshadow some of the other shortcomings.
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