Sunday, November 3, 2013

Snitch (2013)

SnitchIn Snitch, Dwayne Johnson stars as John Matthews, a trucking distribution owner that agrees to work with the federal government to be an informant after his son, Jason (Rafi Garvron), is sent to prison for the intent to distribute narcotics. After striking a deal with the DEA, Matthews (undercover) partners with one of his employees, Daniel (Jon Bernthal), an ex-convict with connections to the drug world. Barry Pepper, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nadine Velazquez, Benjamin Bratt, and Susan Sarandon round out this star-filled cast.

Now keep in mind, Dwayne Johnson has been one of my favorite athletes since the first time he won the Intercontinental championship so I'm pretty biased here. Regardless, to see The Rock come full circle from a young WWE superstar through this role in Snitch is an absolute accomplishment for him, and it's incredibly exciting for all of his millions and millions of fans. Without question, this is by far the best acting performance from Johnson to date. He's certainly no Kevin Costner, but he's getting better and better with each passing role. For once, it's nice to see Johnson go a whole movie without getting into a overpowering physical confrontation of any kind meaning it's nice to see a film where he isn't giving bad guys "the rock bottom." In this film, he's actually given a chance to show off his dramatic side, as opposed to the constant wave of brute force. There's never been any doubt that Johnson is filled with charisma, but if you add this less than disarming dramatic side to his resume, it creates even more possibilities for his future roles.

Part of what makes Dwayne Johnson so successful in this role is the cast he has around him. Most notably, Barry Pepper continues to excell in the majority of his roles with this role being no exception. He brings a seriousness to the reality of the situation in this role, a trait that is relatively lacking from Johnson's character. And, who doesn't want Susan Sarandon as a cast-mate? Her effortless intuitions take a seemingly boring character and turns her into one of the key components of the plot. It makes absolute sense for her to play a prosecutor running for Congress and though her character is a bit "catty," she'd still take in a boatload of votes.

This script essentially sends a watered-down message to viewers that if one of your family members does enough for the government, the government instantly let someone out of jail. Obviously, the "deal" wouldn't apply to all crimes, but the underlying principal is the same that being the government is somehow flexible just because your loved one is in prison. While that premise is indeed comical at times, it still makes for interesting entertainment. On paper, the premise of this film seems a bit tacky (even if it was a true story), but the acting execution is clearly the driving force behind the success of this picture. Drug cartels are no stranger to film storylines, but this one stands out not because of its story but because of the emotionally-driven devotion to family and thematic message regarding what one father will do for his son.

In the end, this movie had my attention simply because The Rock was in the staring role. It's a complete bonus to get a fast-paced, entertaining film with a well-rounded cast on top of him in the staring role. In any event, you will absolutely without question get your money's worth out of this film. Two hours will seem like 20 minutes. Enjoy.

Overall Film Grade: B+

I don't think some of the reviewers of this movie watched the same version I did. I was on the edge of my seat, pushed back in my seat, adrenaline pumping like fresh water from a spring, even a few tears!! I thought this film was superb to say the least. I think all kids should be required to see it. I took my daughter and granddaughter to see it and we all loved it. I was even recommending it to strangers after I saw it. Cannot say enough good about this film or the acting. Totally loved it from beginning to end. The fact that it was based on a true story made it all the better. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie!!! I will definitely add this one to my collection as soon as it's available on DVD. Debbie M.

Buy Snitch (2013) Now

Dwayne Johnsonian's new film Snitch is not nearly the generic action-thriller that I was expecting based on the generic trailers that seem so desperate to make you believe it is so. Snitch is surprising in a lot of ways, for one thing it is actually more thoughtful and has ideas and a point of view on current affairs regarding our legal system, it is more powerful than you might suspect and it is an exciting change of pace for a wrestler who wants to be an actor.

Not to make it sound so trivial, this is to be fair Johnson's best work, as of yet. Though he isn't a fully capable dramatic actor, as of now, he is a lot better than you probably have a right to expected and here he gets to flex a different set of muscle than he usually does.

Johnson plays John Matthews, a trucking company owner, who's estranged son, Jason (Rai Gavron) finds himself in trouble with the law, and I mean serious kind of trouble, like ten years behind bars kinda trouble. It seems that Jason foolishly agreed to intercept a package of Ecstasy for his best pal, under the mandatory sentencing laws he faces a decade behind bars just for doing so. Jason can't really turn snitch, he doesn't have the stomach for it and besides, he doesn't actually know any drug dealers.

So John strikes a deal with a hard ass federal prosecutor (Susan Sarandon), that if he helps to sneer a bigger fish drug dealer that his son's sentence will be greatly reduced. But as stated in the great film noir Detour, fate is just waiting to stick it's foot out and trip you. So, John finds himself in one bad situation to one worst situation eventually leading him into the trusted inner circle of a cartel boss called "El Topo" (Benjamin Bratt) .

Johnson may not be ascending to the first rank of acting talents, but he does manage an admirable job. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger for example, he has always had difficulty with playing ordinary-type guys, I always thought that was because he is so far from being an ordinary man that it lacks credibility, what it really was is that he lacked the skill to make it credible. Johnson isn't much more of an ordinary guy-type, but he manages to make us believe him because he succeeds in playing the role well.

Unexpectedly Johnson is never better than when he's sharing screen time with talented old pros like Oscar winner Susan Sarandan and the underappreciated character actor Barry Pepper. I suspect these fine thespians are able to bring out the best in the big lug, who actually doesn't seem like a big lug at all in this one.

The real acting high spot however is courtesy of the relatively unknown Jon Bernthal, who plays John's employee who he has help him with his introduction into the drug underworld. Bernthal is a strong and engaging actor, he is able to fully bring his character to empathetic life and I'm going to look forward to seeing him in future roles.

Directed by former movie stuntman Ric Roman Waugh who relies, perhaps a little too much on the largely unappealing shaky cam for his action scenes. However, he seems to know his way around a tight dramatic script, which he co-authored. Waugh has directed before, particularly a movie titled Felon starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff, which I have not seen, but have heard good things regarding it and given his work here, I think he will be a director to keep an eye on.

We are told up front that Snitch was inspired by a true story, just how much of it resembles reality is very little, I suspect. The story is preposterous, but it works as a very entertaining thriller with a well-written script from director Waugh and co-writer Justin Haythe (Revaluation Road).

For an actioner, the violence is surprisingly and pleasantly kept to a minimum in most instances helping to give the story a tad more room to breathe and thus credibility. Of course, Snitch has the obligatory car chase and it all comes down to a high speed pursuit and shoot out. However, this movie is more interested in character and ideas than habitual violence, in action movie terms it is more Copland than Demolition Man.

Recently, a lot of action stars have appeared in tiresome and effete movies, but Johnson has found his way into one of the better ones. Efficiently made, well told with strong performances. As far as action flicks go, this is some thing special and of late, that's become all too rare.

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In our culture we praise and encourage men who "act" tough and masculine. But in this real-life story we see a man who actually IS tough and masculine! A real man. Someone who is determined, decisive, relentless and brave! A man who could legitimately hide behind a thousand excuses but chooses not too! We can all learn a lot from Snitch: When the chips are down are we going to do the impossible for someone we love?

If you get weak at the knees, watch Snitch and do all you can do! As the great basketball coach, John Wooden, once said: "Do Not Let What You Cannot Do Interfere With What You Can Do."

Want Snitch (2013) Discount?

Throughout the years, many athletes have tried the motion picture crossover route. The legendary Joe Namath gave it a go. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a renowned body-builder before he started terminating. Heck, even Michael Jordan gave the silver screen a try, pairing his talents with Bugs Bunny and his friends in SPACE JAM. But Dwayne `The Rock' Johnson appears to have some staying power, as well as a willingness to try something different. He attached himself to THE MUMMY franchise in the beginning, and he's even dabbled in big screen comedy by way of Walt Disney. In SNITCH, he's an older, wiser father figure who'll stop at nothing to see that his son gets a fair shake.

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)

John Matthews (played by the reliable Dwayne Johnson) is living the dream: he's managed to turn his former day job as a long-haul trucker into an impressive construction/shipping business. However, when his son gets caught up inadvertently in a DEA drug sting, he'll risk his family, his livelihood, and his life in order to set things right by cooperating with a powerful state's attorney (Susan Sarandon in a curious short role, almost a cameo) in order to take down a powerful drug cartel.

Unfortunately, the premise sounds more exciting that SNITCH ever adds up to, but that isn't for the `want' of trying. The script written by Justin Haythe (a relative newcomer) and director Ric Roman Waugh (a relative newcomer to directing, as his background on IMDB appears primarily to be stuntwork) never eclipsed a solid `After School Special' feel with Daddy Dearest willing to `go the distance' for his son rightly accused but perhaps wrongly prosecuted. It feels very much like it was all crafted to be a star vehicle for Johnson; if that's the case, they should've given it more teeth.

On the silver screen, Johnson has always been an admirable property. He's blessed with a `big guy' swagger that's equal parts machismo and lovable. It isn't hard to see him in this role. He plays the father figure with great ease no doubt his athletic background has given him ample exposure to kids and he even attacks much of the story's greater conflicts (grappling with the complexities of a flawed legal system, managing to juggle one failed marriage alongside his new wife and child, etc.); if so many secondary characters didn't appear to be `just showing up' for their paychecks, maybe this smart little film would've had a bigger pay-off. As it is, Susan Sarandon tries to chew screen in a legal role that mostly escapes her, and TV's stalwart Melinda Kanakarades glides from one distraught scene to the next.

Still, I'll give props here to Johnson. With his track record at the box office, it'd be easy for him to coast in one flick after another that simply applied the same formula, then rinsed, then spun, then repeated. Instead, he continues to search out one property after another that's a bit different than the last; it'll no doubt make him a better thespian in the long run.

SNITCH is produced by Summit Entertainment, Exclusive Media Group, Participant Media, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Front Street Productions, and Spitfire Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled through Summit Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, the picture looks and sounds remarkable; director Waugh's stunt background clearly adds much to the action finish, but much of the rest of the picture feels a bit routine. As for the special features, there's a respectable handful on the disc: an audio commentary from the writer(s)/director, a making-of short, some deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.

RECOMMENDED. SNITCH doesn't really keep any secrets. It ain't awful; it's an admirable attempt to give the always charismatic Dwayne `The Rock' Johnson something a bit different to do, which means it may not please his established fans nor woo many new ones to his career. Unfortunately, SNITCH never rises much above the `After School Special' quality of the storytelling with some predictable developments and performances. `The Rock' deserved better, but he brought his A game to this B script.

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Summit Entertainment provided me with an advance DVD copy of SNITCH by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.

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