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Snitch - Review

Snitch

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DWAYNE Johnson flexes some pretty decent acting muscles in Snitch, an absorbing thriller that also aims to provide a little social commentary on America’s war against drugs.

Inspired by a new laws involving mandatory sentencing that encourage even first-time offenders to stitch up potentially innocent friends in exchange for leniency, the film finds Johnson playing everyman trucking company owner John Matthews as he suddenly finds his estranged son (Rafi Gavron) facing 10 years in prison for agreeing to receive a shipment of ecstasy pills for a friend.

Striking a deal with a ruthless DA (Susan Sarandon), John subsequently assumes the burden of providing information himself when his son refuses, hooking up with an ex-con employee (The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal) to approach a drug cartel under the watchful guise of the DEA (led by Barry Pepper).

Co-written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh, Snitch is, for the most part, a thoughtful, character-driven thriller that places moral and ethical issues above the need for muscular action (contrary to what the trailer suggests).

Yes, the final third does deliver some belated pyrotechnics but this owes more to the gritty style of 1970s filmmakers than it does the action vehicles more commonly associated with its leading man.

In doing so, it also enables Johnson to lay down some markers for the future should he outgrow blockbusters and wish to concentrate on more story-driven, character-based stuff. And the actor acquits himself well, hiding his out-sized physique to create a believable father battling the odds in a desperate bid to do the right thing by the son he feels he has forsaken.

The intimate moments between Johnson and Gavron are particularly well handled, while the actor genuinely looks scared when dealing with the ruthless cartel, headed by Benjamin Bratt’s boss.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Pepper, excellent as John’s DEA handler, Sarandon as the ambitious DA, Bernthal as the conflicted ex-con and Michael Kenneth Williams as another dealer.

Waugh’s direction, meanwhile, succeeds in layering on the tension while giving his characters the space to breathe and grow. The few action scenes on show are also competently handled.

Admittedly, the final third does require a complete suspension of disbelief and threatens to stray into more unbelievable blockbuster territory but by then you should be too invested in the characters to notice too much.

This is, for the majority of the time, a first-rate thriller, the like of which Johnson should do more of.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 112mins
UK Release Date: June 21, 2013