Review: Johnson survives role as a 'Snitch'
By Roger Moore
Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
It takes forever to get going, and lollygags along even after that.
As a businessman scrambling to find a way to get his son's federal prison sentence, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has to play fear, tough love, pity and panic — and he's a bit in over his head.
But that's the point of “Snitch,” a straight-no-chaser thriller “inspired by a true story.” The pacing is off, too many scenes lack dramatic punch and play like filler. But Johnson is pretty good at being a guy in over his head, sharing scenes with flinty pros like Susan Sarandon, Benjamin Bratt and Barry Pepper.
It's a tale of a civilian who gets mixed up in the feds-vs.-Mexican drug cartels war, whose “mandatory minimum sentencing” has snared John Matthews' naive 18-year-old son. The prosecutor (Sarandon) is a hardcase, readying a run for Congress. So, John makes a deal — he'll get “an introduction” into that world through his construction-supply business. He'll use his Jefferson City, Mo., trucks for transport, and they'll nail big players from the cartel.
Co-writer director Ric Roman Waugh is a stuntman turned director. But he wastes a staggering amount of time setting that scenario up, and even more time getting to the point where his no-digital stunt experience pays off. That slow pacing robs the story of tension and suspense.
What gives it juice is the supporting cast. Jon Bernthal (Shane in “The Walking Dead”) is credibly wary as the ex-con John begs to get him in the door of the drug world. And the terrific Michael Kenneth Williams is the first dealer he meets, a guy who pulls a gun on him just to test him.
Pepper sports a Civil War-worthy goatee in his role as an undercover fed who frets over John's safety. Rafi Gavron is properly frightened as the boy who let a friend entrap him with a box full of pills and sets this whole saga in motion.
But I like the way Johnson, often shot in extreme close-ups, underplays this guy. And I like the way the script lets John's ineptitude and discomfort in this world create the humor, the way Waugh has some scenes set to music, no sound effects, the way he dispenses with the obligatory “I'm gonna need to head to the gun shop” scene and the way the man films a car-and-truck chase — rending metal, shattered glass, none of that digital fuss and fakery.
“Snitch” isn't a great film. But after the run of brawling, over-the-top shoot-'em-ups / drive-'em-ups that have cluttered Johnson's resumé, it's good to see him try his hand at acting, even if he is just as over-matched as the fellow he's playing.
Roger Moore is a film critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Smaug’ a step up for Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy
- Black-and-white film ‘Nebraska’ a colorful tale
- 3 Christmas movies cap a big year for African-American cinema
- DVD reviews: ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and ‘Adore’
- Dark Braddock setting of ‘Out of the Furnace’ reflects a dying way of life
- ‘Darlings’ keeps alive page of Beat history
- ‘12 Years,’ ‘Hustle’ lead Golden Globes nominations