Can The Rock actually act?
Snitch is his most impressive "acting" performance yet, if you consider acting incapable of existing in shoot-'em-ups or in movies titled Tooth Fairy. As divorced-and-remarried construction kingpin John Matthews, Johnson emotes one characteristic that was absent from his 20 other film roles: Vulnerability.
See, John's son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is a wussy idiot. He lets his freeloading drug dealer friend send a box full of ecstasy pills to his house and he promptly gets busted by a very efficient DEA team led by a skinny-ZZ Top-bearded Barry Pepper. Jason has to serve the mandatory minimum for narcotic distribution -- 10 years. It's almost as unfair as the film constantly points out it is.
Since Jason doesn't know anyone else to squeal on to the U.S. Attorney (an oily Susan Sarandon) to reduce his sentence, John volunteers to do it himself. With the help of his ex-con employee Daniel (The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal), John slowly integrates himself into the drug world. Their relationship is very much an undercover Breaking Bad analog, with John as the apprehensive, yet determined Walter White and Daniel as the streetwise (if much more two-dimensional) Jesse Pinkman.
It's the fear of John that actually makes the movie interesting. His first attempt is to drive down to the local drug corner and blatantly ask for some coke. In the ensuing confrontation, he doesn't pummel a few guys at once -- for the first time in his movie career (and probably his life), The Rock gets manhandled and left bleeding in the streets. His character is never in control throughout the entire movie; he's not an action hero, just a regular one ... at least until the very, very end when he's shotgunning thugs out of his truck window.
With basically no action for at least the first hour, director Ric Roman Waugh has to make the film somewhat interesting. Thankfully, he figured out what far too few directors realize: Michael K. Williams always makes everything better. When Williams first appears as low-level dealer Malik while sitting at a table with a gun in front of him and that snarl on his face, more than a few fans of The Wire breathed an excited chuckle at his presence in the movie. Later on, he has to cede his screen time to Benjamin Bratt, who plays a Mexican drug player with some fancy gadgets and not much else, and whose eventual downfall never totally makes sense.
In fact, most of the last half hour doesn't make any sense, doing its best to wipe away the "Inspired By True Events" disclaimer at the beginning. Overall, it's a heavy-handed and mediocre film. But for The Rock's career, it's a worthy step in the right direction.
Rated PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence.
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