Courtesy of Steve Dieti
Director Ric Roman Waugh’s (“Felon”) “Snitch” is a poorly paced and contrived action film based on true events about the federal drug policy in the United States.
In the film, Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron, “Celeste and Jesse Forever”) is sent to prison for receiving drugs from a friend and is subject to federal minimum sentencing drug laws. After refusing to set up his friends, Jason’s dad, John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”), decides to work for the government as an informant on Jason’s behalf.
Casting is a major setback for “Snitch.” Johnson does a good job in action movies, but placing him in a role that requires even some emotional development seems to be the kiss of mediocrity.
Jon Bernthal (“Rampart”) plays a construction worker and Matthews’ accomplice, Daniel James, in a character that is almost identical to the actor’s performance in “The Walking Dead.” A large part of the movie is based on the personal interactions and dialogue of Johnson and Bernthal. When they fail to deliver, the movie falls flat.
Susan Sarandon’s (“Cloud Atlas”) performance as the U.S. attorney, on the other hand, represents a more seasoned performance from a veteran actress. Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Road”) also gives an incredible performance as the drug dealer Malik, but the screenplay has a hard time developing Malik throughout the film.
Arguably, the best acting came from Barry Pepper (“Broken City”) who plays a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Pepper’s impressive beard made him hard to recognize, and during the entirety of the film he felt more like an actual cold, hard law enforcement official as opposed to an actor playing one.
Casting problems go hand -n-hand with problems with character developments. The movie opens with Jason getting arrested and is entirely based on his freedom, yet he gets little screen time in the film. The character is not developed at all. As a result the viewer has no emotional investment in him. Even though Bernthal gives an overall mediocre performance, Waugh takes the time to develop the character so that Daniel is at least likeable. Matthews remains largely a static character. Unfortunately, the forced and contrived dialogue makes Johnson hard to take seriously when he tries to be expressive.
One of the biggest letdowns of the movie is the ending action sequence. The director loses a lot of potential from Benjamin Bratt (“Private Practice”), who plays the cartel leader Juan Carlos “El Topo” Pintera. Pintera is supposed to be the worst of the worst, and yet he is taken down without a fight in one of the most anti-climactic moments of the movie. Bratt’s character is unexpectedly undeveloped given that he is the main criminal in the film. The performance lacked the fear that a good villain should inspire.
The problem is that the first half of the movie moved so slow that the second half of the movie tried to do too much too quickly, and it all felt too forced. Better pacing would have helped with the flow of events.
“Snitch” is not a total letdown, but it is not a good movie. If nothing else, the movie at least helps bring the question of U.S. drug laws and policy to the national discussion.