Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon, Michael Kenneth Williams, Rafi Gavron, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Benjamin Bratt, Lela Loren, JD Pardo, David Harbour, Harold Perrineau, Kyara Campos, James Allen McCune
Written by: Ric Roman Waugh & Justin Haythe
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence
Running Time: 112
Date: 21/02/2013

Snitch (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Snitch' Hitters

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the underrated Faster, Dwayne Johnson -- the wrestler formerly known as "The Rock" -- proved that a rock could cry. He played a morally complex character painted in shades of gray and pulled it off nicely.

In the new Snitch, he tries for a similarly layered hero and proves that he's no fluke.

However, he also proves that every good performer and every good story needs an equally good director.

That director, Ric Roman Waugh, a former stuntman on films like the original Total Recall, True Romance, and Gone in 60 Seconds, isn't quite it.

Ironically, for a stunt person, Waugh's action scenes are quite choppy and the building of suspense is a bit rough, but the characters stand out as dimensional beings with inner lives.

In Snitch, a movie "inspired by true events," Johnson plays John Matthews, the owner of a big construction firm, who is divorced with a new wife and daughter.

His grown son from his previous marriage, Jason (Rafi Gavron), unwisely agrees to accept a package, "just for a day," and brings down the wrath of the DEA. He's arrested and faces at least ten years in prison.

John learns that if Jason can cut a deal and snitch on known drug dealers, he can reduce the sentence. The trouble is that Jason doesn't know any drug dealers. So John enlists an employee, two-time felon Daniel James (Jon Bernthal), to introduce him to that dark world.

He also agrees to work with a sharp, severe, self-promoting politician (Susan Sarandon) and a grungy, bearded DEA agent (Barry Pepper) to help catch the bad guys. Eventually, his plan leads him to a big time drug lord known as "El Topo" (Benjamin Bratt).

His plan, of course, also involves several shootouts and chases, all handled with rudimentary displays of style and grace. These scenes tend to make the movie feel longer and heavier than even the social commentary about the brutal unfairness of current drug laws.

Indeed, the movie doesn't seem to fully understand -- or care -- about the nuances of a civilian becoming involved in complicated drug busts.

It calls up comparisons to another recent "inspired by true events" story, Argo, whose direction by Ben Affleck was crisp enough to smooth out any implausible or ill-fitting moments.

Snitch isn't quite in that league. But its smaller, quieter moments instill hope that Johnson can stretch even further and become worthy of much stronger material.

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