Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bernthal
This season hasn’t been kind to the action hero based film, or maybe the action based hero film hasn’t been kind to us so far. The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first solo action film since before becoming the Governator was weak sauce and Broken City, Bullet to the Head, and Parker didn’t offer much more. Does this mean the action hero movie just can’t be done anymore? Well, The Rock is giving it a go with his new film Snitch.
To call this a standard action film wouldn’t be correct. Johnson’s role of John Mathews is a desperate man trying to save his son from a ten year jail sentence rather than a Rambo style super hero type of role. Snitch is a melodrama first followed by an action film. The action here from The Rock is reactionary not an attack. He doesn’t always succeed either. In fact his first attempt at trying to do something for his son finds him getting beat down by a couple of street thugs. Now the Rock is no Oscar caliber actor, at least he hasn’t shown that yet. He comes from the same school as action stars from the 80’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris, from some sort of sports arena. The difference is that the Rock comes from wrestling which is sort of athletic acting. So he has a bit of grasp on melodrama.
I call this movie a melodrama rather than a drama because it’s all a bit over the top. Susan Sarandon seems to be slumming here and since she’s slumming it seems like she decided to just chew the scenery. She has a couple of scenes that are probably supposed to be impactful but are actually a little humorous. She plays the district attorney that holds all the cards. She is using the mandatory minimum sentencing to put Mathew’s son away for at least ten years even though he’s a first time offender. The only way she is willing to let the boy off is if he gives up bigger fish which he can’t do and he won’t set up his friends in order to cut a deal. The only option Mathews sees is to get the bad guys for the D.A. himself and he sets out on that mission with the help of Shane from The Walking Dead.
Often in the 80’s action movies took some social or political message of the era and used it to build their film and deliver an opinion on said message by the closing of he film. It usually comes off campy and base but that was the nature of the era. Guess what? This film harkens back to that era in a big way. It’s “based on real events” and by the closing credits it offers a very strong opinion on the mandatory minimums. So the set up is overly simplistic and the inevitable ending is tied up in such a tight little bow that it actually feels like a blood stopping tourniquet but the truth is that Snitch is still a pretty entertaining movie in parts. The whole thing rests on Johnson’s shoulders and he carries the burden pretty well. Even with all of the plot flaws and overly melodramatic moments he’s still a lot of fun to watch. There’s the cop who screws Mathews in the early part of the film only to help him for almost no reason later, there’s a scene where Sarandon gets so excited I wondered if she needed a break for a smoke and a nap, and tons of more issues. With that said the pacing is quick and the action is married well to the story and as I said previously Johnson is fun. This is a perfect example of low budget matinee fare and that’s ok.