Softer side of The Rock
The action movie world has been turned topsy-turvy. The following statement is not a typo: The current films by stars Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jason Statham are not as interesting, smart or entertaining as the new release starring Dwayne Johnson.
That’s right. THAT Dwayne Johnson. While “Snitch” certainly won’t provide the former “The Rock” an Oscar nomination any time soon, his latest allows him to officially drop that moniker and be taken seriously as a movie star. “Snitch” is no “Die Hard,” but it certainly, and thankfully, is no “Good Day to Die Hard” either. In fact, it is less of a mindless, violent action film (which we’ve had enough of, at least for a few months) and more of a suspense thriller– and not a bad one at that.
Johnson plays John Matthews, owner of a successful trucking company, whose teenage son from a previous marriage makes a bad decision and could be put away in federal prison for 10 years. A potential plea bargain requires Matthews to go rogue into the underbelly of the drug world and help a Congress-aspiring DA (Susan Sarandon) and a tough as nails DEA agent (Barry Pepper) bring in a cartel kingpin (Benjamin Bratt). Though Johnson looks like he could break in two like twigs all the thugs with whom he’s forced to confront, the script (adapted by Justin Haythe from true events) shows remarkable restraint, allowing the tension to build as Matthews makes deal after deal with the help of one of his employees, an ex-con (Jon Bernthal) who is trying to go clean but can’t refuse the money Matthews offers in return for his drug connections.
The movie is fraught with potential for pretension, cliché or worse, parody, but avoids such traps; most importantly by surrounding the admittedly limited range Johnson with a superb cast of both veterans and newcomers. While the action scenes are few, and not exactly groundbreaking, they add to the tension and don’t become the whole reason for the film. It is worth noting that the film doesn’t require “R” rated levels of violence or profanity to maintain a gritty authenticity.
Again, good writing trumps heavy handed artifice.
At the heart of the script is a sincere father and son story and “Snitch” captures genuine emotion in scenes where Matthews visits his son in prison – not an original idea to be sure, but one suited to Johnson and especially gifted young actor Rafi Gavron who plays his son.
If you are looking for something loud and ludicrous, then “Snitch” may not be your movie, but a film that treats its subject material and its audience with respect deserves some, well, respect. And that’s a good rock upon which to build any movie.
Rated “PG-13” for drug content, and sequences of violence.