When a teenage boy is wrongfully arrested for distributing drugs and sentenced to prison for a decade, the father makes a deal with the United States Attorney to become an undercover informant and infiltrate a drug cartel, risking his family and his life.
I was thoroughly impressed with Ric Roman Waugh’s ‘Snitch’, but for different reasons than you might expect. Inspired by true events like so many movies these days, this particular film produces a sense of true fear and hopelessness. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson leaves ‘The Rock‘ at home and plays a real human being who is in over his head with some real bad guys. Not only that, Johnson proves that his acting ability is worthy of not a WWE Championship, but an acting award.
Prior to the flick starting, I thought and actually discussed with a friend what I thought I'd get out of this film as the trailers portrayed it more as an action vehicle for ‘The Rock‘. What we all received instead was an amazing story and suspenseful drama about a father, John Matthews (Johnson) who is willing to do anything, and I mean anything to put a stop to his son Jason (Rafi Gavron) from serving a decade in federal prison under the mandatory-sentencing laws for first time drug offenders, which is a law that much of the population has a problem with. And what makes this incredibly tense and real is how Matthews goes about getting involved with vicious gangs and even a Mexican cartel.
‘Snitch‘ is taken from an actual news report that focuses on an actual law that procures a reduced sentence in prison for the convict for information leading to the arrest of other drug dealers and suppliers. Justin Haythe’s screenplay takes on the legality of this law and dives deep into the struggles of the characters and the tough decisions they make , rather than show a muscular guy who goes around offing bad guys, as we’ve seen so many times before.
Jason, Matthew’s son from a previous marriage, is arrested by the DEA for, against his better judgement, accepting a package from the postal service full of Ecstasy for a friend as a favor. There is enough ecstasy in the package to make thousands and thousands of dollars. However, it was a setup, and as soon as Jason opens the box to see what is in it, he is taken to prison and sentenced to ten years. Never having done anything like this before, and not even having a speeding ticket, the DEA is trying to get him to rat out people he knows in return for a shorter prison sentence, but Jason really doesn’t know anyone in the drug game at all.
Matthews, is a successful businessman who owns a shipping and cement company and has a new family now. Seeing no other option, he phones a few friends who have connections to U.S. Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), who seems to be willing to do anything to keep her political power. Keeghan slowly agrees to allow Matthews help catch drug dealers in return for his son getting out of prison.
Things don’t work so smoothly at first, but Matthews takes in one of his employees by the name of Daniel Cruz (Jon Bernthal), who is a two timer on drug distribution charges, but is on the straight and narrow now, getting his life turned around for his family, and pushes Daniel to introduce him to some of his former associates in the drug game. This leads to a meeting with big time criminal Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams), who after some suspenseful examinations, hires Matthews and Daniel to make a big drug run across state lines, using Matthew’s 18-wheelers. Low and behold, the first action sequence takes place more than an hour into the film where our duo comes across a big Mexican Drug cartel led by Juan Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). In an undercover operation to take down Malik, Keeghan and under-cover DEA agent Cooper (Barry Pepper) decide to take down the cartel instead, which puts Matthews and Daniel into a much more dangerous situation now, as this is the only way he can free his son.
Like I said, ‘Snitch‘ caught me off guard, as I expected another run-of-the-mill action movie for ‘The Rock‘. However, Johnson never delivers a punch or a kick in this movie as he is playing an average guy who is struggling with not only the fact that his only son might spend the next ten years in jail, but with the fact that his divorce from his ex-wife and his absence from his son’s life have caused all of this. I’ve always seen Johnson’s charm and wit in every performance he has done, but with this, he shows great range into his dramatic ability as an actor. It was truly amazing and I think now he can move on to more dramatic films.
The rest of the cast does a decent job, but feels underused in most places as they don’t have enough screen time. That’s not the case with Michael K. Willams though. Every time he is off screen, I found myself wanting him to be on screen more. He just brings so much life and character to each role he plays, and even though he’s a bad guy in the movie, you root for him, just like we did in ‘The Wire‘ and ‘Boardwalk Empire‘. And with Waugh being a stunt coordinator, the climactic vehicle chase is done very well with some tense and great cinematic moments as well as his camerawork with the actors which ups the suspense and keeps us interested in the next scene. ‘Snitch‘ was not what I was expecting, but it was far better than anything I could have hoped for. Don’t miss it.
'Snitch' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image as a whole looks very good, with rich detail that is vivid and sharp throughout. The wide shots of the city and suburbs look exquisite, with beautiful scenery and a good bit of depth. The closeups of the actors reveal stubble, scars, and makeup very nicely.
Costumes and textures also standout here. In the darker scenes, the shadow detail looks great with some deep and inky black levels. Contrast and colors look good as well. This isn't an overly bright film, as it has a somber tone to it, but natural lighting and great blues and grays make this image looks wonderful. There was no banding or dirt of any kind, but there was a bit of motion blur. Other than that, this is a solid video presentation.
This release comes with an impressive lossless DTS-HD 7.1 audio mix, and just sounds fantastic. This isn't you typical "blow em up" Rock action movie. It's quite the opposite really, but it does have several scenes that are heavier in action, with car chases, gunshots, and other small fights. These sound effects are perfectly balanced and do not sound overly loud or too soft. They echo through the room and sound very realistic. The surrounds and rear speakers get quite a workout with all of the great ambient noises and sound effects throughout the movie. The dialogue is crystal clear and easy to understand at all times. It is free of pops, cracks, and hissing. The dynamic range is very wide, with some great lows and highs to match. The bass even rumbles from time to time when things get tense. The score sounds beautiful and always adds to the brooding mood of the film. This is an excellent audio presentation.
Audio Commentary with Director Ric Roman Waugh and Editor Jonathan Chibnall - A very good commentary track with Waugh taking the lead. He and Chibnall discuss the origins of the movie, the casting, and some fun things that happened on set, as well as some of this stylistic choices. Chibnall doesn't discuss a lot of the editing, but tends to add a good deal of information to the discussion.
Privileged Information: The Making of 'Snitch' (HD, 50 mins.) - A multi-part featurette about he making of the movie with cast and crew interviews, fun stories from filming on location, and some real life cases that this movie was based on. Definitely worth the watch.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 mins.) - Four deleted scenes that are worth watching. One of which might have given this movie an 'R' rating.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 mins.) - The trailer for the film.
'Snitch' is surprisingly good and works on just about all levels. It will spark debate amongst you and your friends on this horrible law too. It's great to see The Rock not be the stereotypical badass he usually us, but rather a real life father who is scared to have his son in jail for many years. The video and audio presentations are both excellent, and the few extras are solid as well. 'Snitch' is definitely worth owning. This comes highly recommended.