Sunday, April 28, 2013

Snitch Movie Review

First things first; you may be wondering why this is a purely written review rather than one of those fancy, newfangled video reviews I was experimenting with recently. Well, it's not because I hate the sound of my own voice (although it does sound so very wrong to me!), and it's not because I'm just too damn lazy (although it is an awful lot of work to put a video review together). No, it's actually because I just couldn't find anywhere quiet enough to record properly today. If it wasn't people shouting in the street and quad-bikes revving insanely past, it was one of my dogs snoring so loudly the microphone kept picking it up. So, no audio. Just words.

By the way, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a Pathe card - meaning unfettered access to all the movies I can possibly face seeing, and a likely increase in the number of reviews that are going to be coming your way in the near future...

Ok, so on with the review.

Frankly, if you saw the trailer for Snitch (which featured more than a smattering of blazing guns, exploding cars and lorries sliding down roads) then you may have been slightly misled into thinking that is just another one of those mid-budget actions films starring The Rock. But, you see, this isn't really an action movie at all - it's more of a slow-boiling thriller which has a bit of action littered throughout. And it's not starring The Rock, it's starring Dwayne Johnson.

Dwayne Johnson is in slightly different territory here - he's playing an everyman character, as opposed to a rampaging action hero. He plays the part of John Matthews, the owner of a construction business whose perfect life with his wife and daughter is interrupted by a problem from his former marriage in the shape of his estranged teenage son, Jason (Rafi Gavron).

Jason has got himself into a bit of a drug-related pickle. Having rather stupidly agreed to accept delivery of several grands worth of drugs from a friend, he finds himself in the middle of a drug sting and despite attempting to do a runner, is swiftly snatched up by the po-po. It turns out his 'friend' set him up in order to reduce his own sentence and, thanks to the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug possession that are in place within Missouri, Jason is suddenly facing a minimum of ten years in prison if he doesn't snitch on someone else. The problem for Jason is that, since he isn't actually a drug dealer, he doesn't have anyone to snitch on and he refuses to set someone up like he was set up...

Step forward his dad who goes to see the state's attorney (Susan Sarandon) and, after much pleading, manages to persuade her to reduce his son's sentence if he can gather evidence on drug dealing and bring her a bigger bust.

And so, with the reluctant help of an ex-con at his construction firm (played by Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead) John gets introduced to the world of drug gangs, firstly in the form of the rather dangerous Malik (played by a scene stealing Michael Kenneth Williams) before working his way up (perhaps a tad coincidentally) to some real heavy hitters...

There are more than a few things to like in Snitch. For a start I was surprised to find that Dwayne Johnson can act. No, seriously...for once, I'm not even being sarcastic. Dwayne Johnson gets an opportunity to show off his acting chops and he does a far better job than I was expecting. And the issue of mandatory minimum drug sentencing forcing people to snitch on friends just to help wriggle off the hook they're on is quite an interesting one to explore...


It felt like the movie was a little unsure of what kind of movie it wanted to be. On one hand, it's a thriller that examines serious issues...but, it's The Rock so we have to throw in a couple of action scenes. On one hand, Dwayne Johnson plays an everyman who gets in over his head in order to save his son...but, it's The Rock so we're waiting for the moment when he unleashes himself like a one man wrecking crew. And, maybe because director Ric Roman Waugh has a background in movie stunt work, some of the stunts feel a little forced in the context of the rest of the movie (on a side note - what's with the love of attaching cameras to the grills of cars and the sides of lorries? Some rather strange choices of shots at times...).

Plus, there are rather too many contrivances to ensure that the plot gets from A to B as expected. It starts off in the realms of the fairly believable but things get less and less credible as the story progresses. The movie boasts that it is 'inspired by real events' but I'm thinking that the real event was probably the mandatory minimum sentencing law and everything else here is purely fictional - but what do I know?

At the end of the day, this isn't awful. Dwayne Johnson is a far better actor than I'd expected (he's not Al Pacino, but he's no Arnold Schwarzenegger either) but the film would probably have worked better with a genuine everyman actor rather than a guy who's built like a brick shithouse and looks capable of snapping most of the movie's bad guys like toothpicks if he should so desire.

Is it worth seeing at the cinema? Probably not.

Worth a watch on DVD if you've got nothing doing and you fancy seeing something that's easy to follow and isn't purely car chases and shoot-outs? Sure, why not. It's not a movie that you'll remember (in fact I'm forgetting it already) but I'm going to give it a 6 out of 10.

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