Snitch review

Johnson – aka "The Rock" – continues to make attempts at serious acting with this latest effort, awkwardly falling between his action past and his hopes for a dramatic future.

Inspired by true events, the film follows business owner John Matthews (Johnson) as he acts the snitch in an attempt to infiltrate a drug ring and save his imprisoned son. The storyline jerks forward at an uncomfortable pace; it is at times excruciatingly slow before zipping through plot points like they’re going out of fashion.

The dramatic moments feel flabby and at times irrelevant. If they are there to give the film’s supporting artists a chance to show off their talents, they work quite successfully. Without his cast, Johnson would be lost in this feature. The Rock is, unsurprisingly, more wrestler than actor; his wooden line delivery combines with his pantomime facial expressions to give the impression that he’s straining to remember his lines, cue or purpose in the film. His size and reputation as a world-class fighter undermines an early scene in which he is overpowered and beaten by a few crackheads; at least he gets to show off his wrestling fall and "I’m being hit" acting.

Gavron, as the son, and Bernthal, as Matthews’s reluctant accomplice, both stand out in this otherwise sea of mediocrity. Gavron’s short screen time only makes his overall performance more noticeably excellent. Bernthal is a believable ex-drug dealer, but at times it’s difficult to differentiate his character from that of his role as Shane in The Walking Dead.

Pepper’s Agent Cooper looks for the entirety of the film as though he is wearing a false beard and Sarandon’s Joanne Keeghan looks like she has been asked to join a Saturday-night amateur-dramatics performance. Due to its grounding in real-life events, huge narrative points seem jarring in the context of a fictional film. How often does a clueless businessman walk into a drug dealer’s house with a Dictaphone in his pocket and get away with it? Why can he freely visit the police without the "bad guys" clocking it? It may be more realistic, but it makes an implausible cinematic storyline.

It would be unfair to say the whole film is a bust; there are some outstanding performances from the supporting actors and at least one well-executed action scene. If it had been all-out action, the film could have been more fun, but unfortunately it has tried to fit two genres and ended up being neither. Johnson produced the film himself and it hasn’t paid off, so his hunt for a "take me seriously" vehicle continues.

Snitch at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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