Film Review – Snitch

Snitch (M)

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Benjamin Bratt, Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper

Three stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Would somebody please get Ric Roman Waugh a tripod? The former stunt man seems to have forgotten about the little invention that helps keeps cameras steady and an audience’s breakfast down. His misplaced belief that wobbly shots are the only way to create gritty tension will not get him very far. But credit where it is due, he does try. In fact, everyone involved in this hard-edged drama/thriller about an ordinary man driven to extraordinary actions tries incredibly hard to deliver a suspenseful film with a mushy, emotional centre. It is unfortunate that their best intentions result in a middle of the road film.

When teenager Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) is set up by a friend as a drug dealer, arrested and thrown in jail, his absent but hard-working father John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) attempts to have his sentence reduced from the mandatory 10 years. He meets with state attorney Joanne Keegan (Susan Sarandon) to appeal to her, but she is keen to clean up the streets and appear tough on drug dealers to secure votes in an upcoming election. She agrees to reduce Jason’s sentence if John can bring her another drug dealer, so he recruits his employee with a criminal past Daniel (Jon Bernthal) under false pretenses to introduce him into the life and death world of drug transportation.

SNITCH

With “The Rock” shedding his tough guy persona to play the every man, this descent of the blue-collar worker from his leafy suburban environment into some dodgy and dangerous territory is a trip of familiarity, but one almost worth taking. Johnson has picked a reasonable script (co-written by Waugh and Justin Hathe) to broaden his acting skills that spends more time developing characters and setting up the stakes than one might expect. Despite his Arnold Schwarzenegger physique, Johnson manages to be a relateable screen presence and we are willing to go along this (inspired by a true story) journey with him. He keeps the story grounded when it becomes embellished for the sake of heightened drama.

The script tends to wonder into seen-it-all-before territory, as do some of the performances, but Waugh feels the way to elevate the material is to yank his camera around while filming in ultra tight close ups of his actors. While it rivals the camera-work in The Blair Witch Project, it does little in the way of improving the story. The climax isn’t quite the satisfying one we hope for after sitting through such a thorough build up, with a truck versus cars sequence that underwhelms. For a film that feels like the camera is about to burst with all the shaking, one would think that the final action sequence might be a bit more frenetic. But Snitch miraculously never feels boring. Despite the shaky cam and soap opera style acting , Waugh and company have given this their best shot. Hopefully, next time he remembers the tripod.

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