When was the last time you saw a movie that made you angry? Not angry because the film was bad, or angry because you didn’t like the outcome, but angry with flaws in our justice system. Now, when was the last time you saw a film classified as an “action thriller” that delivered such solid performances by the actors that the special effects and action were just icing on the cake? That’s exactly what happens in Dwayne Johnson’s newest film “Snitch.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, stars in “Snitch” as John Matthews, a business owner that will risk everything to protect his teenage son Jason (Rafi Gavron), from serving a 10-30 year mandatory prison sentence for possession of Ecstasy with intent to distribute. When Jason gets arrested by the DEA, his entire world is turned upside down as he goes from the life of an average teenager to behind the bars of a federal prison.
Approximately 1.3 million people, more than half of those behind bars, are in prison or jail for nonviolent offenses.
Jason’s friend asked him to accept a box as a favor, but was working as an informant for the government and used Jason as a pawn to reduce his sentence. His attorney tells his parents the only way to reduce Jason’s sentence is for him to rat out other dealers and suppliers. The problem is, this teenager is actually a good kid that made a mistake. He doesn’t have any real connections to drug dealers and won’t set anyone up for his own freedom. (while this young man has strong values, unfortunately others do not which put him behind bars in the first place)
45% of people on death row are there because of a lying informant/witness
Jason’s father knows he won’t survive the brutal life behind bars and is set on returning his son to his Mom and his normal life. When he sits down with the ambitious U.S. attorney in the middle of a campaign run for U.S. Congress, Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), he begs her to show some leniency. Keeghan stands by the harsh law as she tells him they’re losing the drug wars and she won’t compromise the fight. She does offer him one “out” – if John can bring them a drug lord, she’ll reduce or commute his son’s sentence.
Um, hello, what does a stand-up business owner know about drug dealers and Mexican drug cartels? So John puts his life and his family’s at risk, as he enters the violent world of the drug cartels, and tries to find a balance between his interests and that of the government’s.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of actor Dwayne Johnson, or not, this is his most solid performance to date. I hope we’ll see “The Rock” take on more roles that allow him to act and not solely rely on fighting scenes, stunts or special effects. I found myself on the edge of my seat eagerly anticipating what would happen next, even though the pace of the film itself was at times slow and deliberate.
Barry Pepper’s role as a DEA agent is on spot, and Sarandon nails the role of an ambitious politician. As a parent, throughout the film I experienced the emotions of fear that this could one day happen to my child, and outrage over a system that needs to be reformed. (The film is based on true events as profiled in a story on Frontline by PBS).
Learn more about the shocking drug statistics and how to put an end to the mandatory minimum.
I attended an advance press screening of Snitch to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.