Film Review: Snitch
When his son makes a momentary but extreme error in judgment and finds himself looking at a ten year stretch behind bars John Matthews (Johnson) takes desperate measures working with the DEA to ensure his son’s safety and early release.
He strikes a deal with a U.S. Attorney and agrees to go undercover to infiltrate a drug smuggling ring. Enlisting unlikely ally Daniel James (Bernthal), an ex-con trying to go straight, he convinces Daniel to make the introduction on his behalf to his former partners in crime and starts running drugs across the US/Mexico border.
When an exchange goes bad Matthews’ cool head prevails and puts him on the radar of Juan Carlos ‘El Topo’ Pintera (Bratt), a criminal far higher up the Cartel’s ranks than he or the DEA expected. Chasing the collar of a lifetime, the kind that political careers are made of, U.S. Attorney Keegan (Sarandon) alters the deal offering Matthews his son’s freedom in exchange for El Topo. As events start to spiral out of control both Matthews and James show the extreme risks each man is willing to take to protect his family.
Director Ric Roman Waugh’s steady pacing and slow tension building work to great effect in Snitch. By taking the time to establish the main characters, their motivations and the nature of their family relationships it gives the audience time to connect with each father, identify with their situation and feel great empathy to their plight.
The action sequences are used sparingly and feel completely within the realms of possibility. This isn’t Dwayne Johnston playing the ultimate bad-arse or super-soldier. This is a regular guy, a loving father taking desperate measures to protect his son. There’s a sense of frailty to Johnson’s portrayal of John Matthews, so much so that you forget about his towering size and impressive physique.
Jon Bernthal brings an equally layered performance as the ex-con trying to do right Daniel James. Struggling to support his family, avoiding lapsing back into a life of crime and desperate to keep his son from heading down the same path, Bernthal’s conflict is apparent. His previous violent tendencies are bubbling just beneath the surface, but he holds them in check to make a better life for his family. The difficulty he has wrestling with what his conscience tells him is the right thing to do and genuine fear for his family’s safety comes across brilliantly and he provides a rock solid counterpart to Dwayne Johnson.
The supporting cast ably backs up the leads with another short but sweet turn by Barry Pepper as a veteran DEA agent Billy Cooper, the typecast but who cares Michael K. Williams as ruthless drug dealer Malik and the power hungry ‘soon to be running for office’ U.S. Attorney Keegan played by Susan Sarandon. Even Benjamin Bratt’s brutal and uncompromising Cartel kingpin Juan Carlos ‘El Topo’ Pintera isn’t a mere caricature reinforcing the realistic characterisation and grounding both the plot and tone.
Far more of a thriller than a balls-to-the-wall action extravaganza, Snitch offers significantly more depth than you’d expect with Dwayne Johnson proving there’s a lot more to him than just muscle. The measured pacing and character development is a welcome change from the more explosions, less exposition formulaic Michael Bay styled fare all too familiar these days.
(This review is courtesy of and was originally posted on Australian Penthouse’s website. The NSFW link can be found here)