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Review: 'Snitch' A Big, Dumb Action Movie Masquerading As Important Social Drama

Reviews
by Drew Taylor
February 20, 2013 5:58 PM
8 Comments
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Snitch
Dwayne Johnson, a wrestler-turned-actor formerly known as The Rock, is an oversized personality more befitting a cartoon than a live action movie. He's got a frame that can barely fit through a traditional doorway and an unparalleled ability to convey a host of emotions just in the way that he chooses to stand. His best performances (as a bounty hunter in "The Rundown" or a dogged federal agent in "Fast Five") have taken advantage of both his size and his willingness to manipulate his stature for the sake of the role (in "Southland Tales" his performance seems almost entirely based on Bugs Bunny). He's a physical performer unburdened by the tangled psychology that trips up most actors. However, in "Snitch," the dreary new "based on a true story" action movie about undercover drug informants, Johnson's physicality is restrained, neutered and muted. He's a comic book hero forcibly wedged into a postage stamp.

The premise of "Snitch," which is about as based on a true story as "The Flintstones," concerns Johnson's young son Jesse (Rafi Gavron who, in an approximation of Johnson's fuzzy ethnic background, ends up looking sort of Navajo), who is busted for accepting a package from his buddy containing a whole bunch of ecstasy pills. Johnson, as an estranged father looking to reconnect with his troubled son, pleas for mercy but is told by everyone (including a congressional nominee played by Susan Sarandon) that drug busts carry deep penalties and that, if Jesse is unwilling to snitch on drug dealers he knows, then there's really nothing they can do. Then Johnson (it's pointless calling him anything but) has an inspired idea – he'll use the ex-con connections he's got as the owner of a construction company to infiltrate the drug underworld. If he can snitch on the appropriate thugs, then, Sarandon agrees, they'll let his son go. Whew, that was easy.

Snitch

Keep in mind that this takes a good 45 minutes to get going, and by that point we've already suffered through endless scenes of Johnson doing paperwork, looking over files, and checking out Wikipedia (he literally types in "drug cartel"), which we can only assume is because he doesn't have access to Lexis-Nexis. Co-writer/director Ric Roman Waugh seems to convince himself that he is making an important social drama, and not that "Snitch" is (or maybe should have been) – a junk retribution wish-fulfillment thriller, winding up somewhere between "Taken" and "Traffic." Everything that makes Johnson such a charismatic screen presence – his offhanded humor, his emotive facial expressions, and his imposing physicality – dwindles. It might be Waugh and Johnson's attempt to make the character more "human," but it robs the actor of his primitive power.

For the rest of the movie, once Johnson has decided to start snitching, there's just a clatter of noisy action sequences and unenthusiastic supporting roles like "The Wire" star Michael K. Williams as a mid-range drug pusher; Barry Pepper as a DEA agent, rocking a fake beard that makes him look like Johnny Depp in "21 Jump Street;" and Benjamin Bratt as a higher level Mexican cartel guy whose most criminal sin seems to be excessive smoothness. (The bad guy extras all look like they came out of Mexican gang member central casting.) As Johnson's erstwhile sidekick, Jon Bernthal, late of AMC's "Walking Dead," plays an ex-con whose motivation for getting caught up in Johnson's exploits always remain obtuse, especially after it's revealed that Johnson is the titular narc. There's a parallel storyline involving his attempt to get clean and rid himself of his criminal past, but like the rest of the movie, it gives little reason for emotional investment beyond "he's a good family man." Well, thanks.

Snitch

The action sequences, meanwhile, which is what "Snitch" is being sold on, are clumsy and awkwardly constructed. They ramp up in both implausibility and unwieldiness to the point that a third act car chase, which involves both the cartel guys and the DEA agents hot on the heels of Johnson's big rig truck, is peppered with moments of outrageous phoniness until the whole thing becomes laughable. Since no one in the production will actually allow Johnson to truly embrace all of the things that made him a movie star, it's got to fall back on clunky moments like one in which he stands in a gun shop, picking out the right weapon for him to kill bad guys with. The moment might have a little jolt to it but that's because the movie has been so bereft of even a scene even suggesting the kind of action that Johnson is so equipped for.

"Snitch" was co-produced by Participant Media, the socially conscious group that made "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Contagion," which muddies the waters even further: Is this some bargain basement action thing or is it actually attempting to thoughtfully investigate both the role of drugs in American society and the somewhat haphazard way in which those infractions are being prosecuted? As it turns out, neither: "Snitch" is just a big, dumb, ugly-looking waste of time, one that turns one of cinema's most charismatic heroes into a restless drone. As they say in the joint: snitches get stitches. But "Snitch" deserves to be put down for good. [D]

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8 Comments

  • mech | August 18, 2013 9:28 PMReply

    The review may such...
    But then so does the movie.
    Dwayne is a average actor in a suck ass movie .

  • Phillip | June 12, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    Worst review ever

  • matt | March 1, 2013 11:21 PMReply

    Your review sucks and you need to stop writing reviews because thsi post was fucking horrible.

  • Margot | February 23, 2013 11:13 PMReply

    Wow, most of the Snitch reviews I’ve read have been much more positive than this one. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure I will eventually because I really do like Dwayne Johnson as an actor, whether it’s an action movie or not. I won’t be able to see it in the theater though because my job at DISH takes up a lot of my time these days. I’m planning to add it to my Blockbuster @Home queue through my DISH account. That way, when it comes out on DVD, it’ll arrive in my mailbox and I won’t have to go out of my way to track it down. I love it because I used to always forget to go rent the movies I missed in the theater, but now they always come to me.

  • Conqueror | February 22, 2013 8:10 PMReply

    Drew you and Emma Bernstein need to go to critic rehab,

    How long have you been reviewing movies. You are completely off base. I just saw one of your colleagues DOG Ed Harris in the "Halle Berry Effect" article for acting the same way he does in all his movies. Now Dwayne Johnson shows a lot of range in this movie and you wanna typecast him because he ain't slamming folks against a wall. This is a different movie this ain't GI Joe or Fast and Furious. You missed it completely because "you didn't get to see what you wanted to see". Which makes this a selfish, biased and therefore unprofessional review. The movie was great and real!!!!! Trust me I know. I don't care if you are 8' 5" and 325 of pure muscle that mess doesn't work against bullets. And when your dealing with criminals and cartel they don't care about your muscles. Be a professional give a unbiased review. DJ did great and Susan Sarandon was great. As a matter of fact all the performances were straight real!!!!

  • Bugs Bunny | February 21, 2013 10:13 AMReply

    Even the comparison of Bugs Bunny in this "review" is stupid! Drew, you do realize that Bugs Bunny is a sly and clever character right? Always outwitting his adversaries, causing them to basically be their own demise. Whereas, I think you TRIED to use it as an insulting jab towards the actor in question, relating somehow to buffoonery and slap stick comedy. Stick to your day job Drew. You missed the target on this one.

  • Dawn Razor | February 21, 2013 2:16 AMReply

    I think you mean "stature", not "statue".

  • Bellicose | February 20, 2013 7:56 PMReply

    Wow. I have read bad reviews, worst reviews and this review. The category to put this review in has yet to be invented, nor added to the dictionary. It is like reading the angry rantings of Yosemite Sam. In the whole article there isn't even a legit, actual review of the movie itself. Only brief descriptions of the plot, and descriptions of scenes in the actual film, followed by telling us who is involved in the film itself. Not actually reviewing anything in a review is an impressive feat never-the-less.

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