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.
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" 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]