Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: "Snitch" Tattles on America's Drug War

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 47 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Snitch (2013)
Running time: 112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence
DIRECTOR: Ric Roman Waugh
WRITERS: Justin Haythe and Ric Roman Waugh
PRODUCERS: Tobin Armbrust, Alexander Yves Brunner, Guy East, David Fanning, Dany Garcia, Matt Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan King, and Nigel Sinclair
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dana Gonzales (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jonathan Chibnall
COMPOSER: Antonio Pinto

DRAMA/CRIME with elements of a thriller

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon, Michael K. Williams, Rafi Gavron, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Benjamin Bratt, Lela Loren, JD Pardo, David Harbour, and Harold Perrineau

Snitch is a 2013 crime drama from director Ric Roman Waugh. The film is inspired by Snitch, an episode of the PBS documentary series, “Frontline” (Season 17, 1999). Snitch the movie stars Dwayne Johnson as a father who goes undercover as a drug dealer in order to free his son who was arrested in a drug sting.

Snitch focuses on John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), who owns a construction company. He receives a phone call from his ex-wife, Sylvie Collins (Melina Kanakaredes), that their son, Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron), has been arrested and charged with distribution of narcotics. The local U.S. Attorney, Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), tells John and Sylvie that Jason is facing a federal mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in jail.

In a bid to get Jason’s sentence reduced, John plans to inform on a drug dealer. He asks one of his new employees, Daniel James (Jon Bernthal), who served time in prison for drug distribution, to help him make a connection with a drug dealer. Reluctantly, but in need of the money John offers, Daniel introduces John to Malik (Michael K. Williams), a very dangerous, high-ranking local drug dealer. John’s simple plan turns very complicated when he draws the attention of a drug cartel kingpin, Juan Carlos Pintera a.k.a. “El Topo.”

Because Participant Media is one of the studios behind Snitch, the film has a social and political message, that being the futility of the United States’ “war on drugs.” There is also the need to make an action movie of Snitch, or at least have some action in the form of gunfights and car chases. Thus, Snitch ends up being somewhat muddled; it is part drama, but struggles to also be a message movie and an action film. The film has a slightly awkward pace and a jittery feel, as if the story just needed to start running – to who knows where.

With that said, Snitch is an enjoyable movie. The action is good, and the way the messaging is presented is certainly attention-grabbing. Director and co-writer Ric Roman Waugh makes sure his audience feels his film’s overwhelming theme of injustice. Waugh certainly plays up the notion of “policemen and thieves” as causing confusion and commotion for the people caught in the middle of their dangerous games.

Dwayne Johnson gives a performance that is so intense that he often comes across as stiff – sincere but stiff. Still, you know… he’s a movie star, mesmerizing and alluring, so I overlook the blemishes. Barry Pepper gives one of his best performances ever as Agent Cooper (of the DEA, although this is never made clear in the movie). Benjamin Bratt is like lightning in a bottle when he first appears in what is a small, but pivotal role. As far as I’m concerned, we don’t see Bratt enough.

Although it could have been much better, Snitch is a quality film that is worth seeing. Just because it does present a powerful and compelling portrait of America’s futile drug war makes it worthwhile. Plus, the DVD has a funny and satirical faux-advertisement about going to prison for selling drugs.

6 of 10

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

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