Snitch is the (inspired by a) true story of John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), a father, husband, ex-husband and business owner whose life is turned upside down when his 18-year-old son is framed, arrested and convicted for drug possession and intent to distribute. The news of his arrest is only compounded by the news that based on the amount of drugs he was arrested with he must serve the mandatory minimum sentence.
US mandatory minimum laws were created to impose unbelievably harsh penalties as a way to incentivize turning in other dealers and traffickers. Unfortunately, John’s son doesn’t have anyone to turn in (and he refuses to frame someone else), which means he will have to serve a minimum 10 year sentence.
For John, this is unacceptable. He enters into an agreement with the federal prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) that if he can bring in a dealer, his son’s sentence will be drastically reduced. Working with an ex-con he met through his construction business (Jon Bernthal) he begins a dangerous journey into the world of drug trafficking.
While Snitch has many wonderful qualities ““ a good story, good pacing, great action ““ it falls down because, well, it simply performs as expected. Every member of the cast was really just slotted in from their previous roles. Dwayne Johnson is a family man standing up for the rights of his family (Walking Tall anyone?); Susan Sarandon is the same polished bureaucrat she’s been in any number of other roles; Benjamin Bratt is a drug kingpin; Jon Bernthal was a guy who loves his family but has a lot of problems and a serious mean streak; and Michael K. Williams is a drug dealer with a lot of respect because he’s prone to violence (also known, quite simply, as Omar). Sound familiar?
Well that’s the problem with Snitch. It is a fine film, but it’s very familiar. There is little to specifically criticize, and it is an enjoyable watch, but it is all very vanilla.
That said, there are two fairly compelling reasons to see Snitch: it’s a good look at what mandatory minimum sentences mean in real terms (as in, even though they’re meant to catch the big guys, they often catch the little guys and destroy lives) and Barry Pepper. Pepper has long been a supporting actor in a variety of roles (True Grit, We Were Soldiers, Battlefield Earth ““ yeah, that’s right) and his work is always excellent ““ that’s why he’s such a great supporting character actor. In Snitch, however, he’s the one who truly stands out above the rest, delivering a great performance as a DEA agent who’s been there, done that, got the scars. If you see this movie for no other reason, see it for Barry Pepper.
Is Snitch Opening Weekend Worthy?
Snitch is an enjoyable film with a good story and great actors playing exactly the same roles you’ve come to know and love them for. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then definitely head out to see it this weekend.
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