Friday, March 15, 2013


Stare Down

Dwayne Johnson has a rather busy film release schedule over the next few months, starting with Snitch as the appetizer, before the main courses of Hollywood blockbuster franchises with the Fast and the Furious 6 and the second film to the G.I. Joe series. His forte is action, and he's shown a knack for comedy, but drama is what he's dabbled in with Snitch, playing a father figure who has to risk everything in order to get his son out of trouble with the law.

Short of passing death sentences like we do here on drug offenders, Snitch introduces to the unenlightened, about the tough federal laws and measures taken in the USA against drug traffickers and the supply chain of cartels, with nothing short of at least 10 years for those who possess with the intent to distribute. But there seems to be a little bit of a flaw in their zeal to curtail drug offenses, and once you're caught, the only way to reduce your sentence, is to squeal on someone else. In other words, be a snitch, and doing at whatever the cost, depending on how much integrity's in your soul.

So the teenage Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) was silly enough, pumped with curiosity, to accept a package sent by his friend that contains recreation drugs, only to be part of the trap set by the DEA and his so-called buddy who put Jason's name in the hat to get his sentence reduced. Not knowing anyone in this clandestine industry, he's staring at a mandatory 10 year imprisonment which everyone knows his pasty white behind cannot survive even a year behind bars. In comes the dad John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), who has now moved on to a new life with a new wife and kid, feeling the anxiety of seeing his only son unfairly treated by the law and getting put behind bars under one of the most bewildering laws, and it's up to him to figure out how best to make a trade with ambitious District Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon).

If this was a typical Dwayne The Rock Johnson film, the rest of the film will feature the wrestler turned actor in his typical go-get-them persona, exercising that bulky frame of his and those muscles to beat the living daylights out of every drug trafficker and dealer in the USA, just to prove a point and get his beloved son out of prison. But no, that cliche got thrown out the window, which was an excellent move to have him cast against type, being a typical businessman with a heart, whose large frame and bulging biceps got consciously hidden by wardrobe so that you'll not wonder why he doesn't just punch the lights out of adversaries he meets in the story.

And if you think Johnson can't do drama, his performance in this film may surprise you, as he plays that desperate dad role to perfection, straddling people on both sides of the law, without over-doing it. Director Ric Roman Waugh had crafted a tension filled story even without big action sequences, with real fear being successfully introduced each time Johnson's John Matthews have danger put in front of him, and he has to rely on his smarts to pull through each obstacle in his way to get his son freed from prison, especially when the authorities decide to go for the bigger fish in the pond, without regard to John's life as he gets exposed to bigger dangers that civilians volunteering their services shouldn't be given the higher stakes should things go wrong.

The depth of story comes from two separate families headed by John and his employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal) who becomes his conduit to the shady world of the underground drug industry no thanks to a past he's put aside, only for John utilizing every mens possible, including dangling a cash reward, to lure him back into the game very reluctantly to assist in coming up on top. The threats of going against cartels are real and fatal, and Waugh's script co-written by Justin Haythe, provided certain contrasts as faced by families in different socio-economic class.

Supposedly inspired by true events, Snitch turns out to be that film which surprises on the strengths of its performances - Susan Sarandon really nailed it as the career ambitious DA looking for higher political office - and a story that really sets you thinking about the disparate levels of punishment against crime and victims caught up in a system that doesn't come with reprieve, but rewards behaviour that's none too honourable. Recommended!

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