Former wrestler Dwayne Johnson’s name has become synonymous with movies that describe themselves as high-octane and adrenaline fuelled. Ric Roman Waugh’s Snitch (2013), an action-thriller is another one of those films but with its sights set on a moral high ground. Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In (2012) brought to attention, the complexities of the US’s war on drugs and the distressing ten-year sentence handed out to drug criminals. Here, facts are fictionalised, garnished with action, and burdened with family drama. Johnson stars as John Matthews, a successful executive at the top of his game.
Matthews’ wayward son Jason (Ray Gavron) becomes unknowingly tangled in an illicit drug scam that results in him being arrested for trafficking. He’s then approached by a politically ambitious US Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) and told that should he manufacture evidence against other members of the cartel, his sentence will be reduced. Unable to contend with prison life or the thought of selling-out the cartel, his father takes the helm and begs the authorities to let him expose the gang with his own undercover investigations. Enlisting the help of ex-con Daniel (John Bernthal), Matthews eventually wins the trust of gang leader Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams) before being drawn further into illegalities.
Johnson – now so often the saviour of big money Hollywood franchises – is as reliable as ever in Snitch’s lead role, bringing compassion to John’s paternal side and a regular clout of machismo to ensure he delivers as the conscientious bad-ass his fans have come to know and love. Whilst the film undoubtedly draws on the qualities of the lead, however, it simultaneously delivers one of the worst ever performances from Sarandon. Her role as the Attorney is hard to swallow, particularly in her unbelievable dialogue but Sarandon acts the part with such little conviction that her performance only serves to highlight the film’s ridiculously implausible narrative.
Thematically, Snitch attempts to augment awareness on the war on drugs, a theme that has been expertly examined in documentary. However, the feature film format, particularly a “high-octane, action-thriller”, is seemingly not the platform for further examination. Waugh ultimately bites off far more than he can chew here, swaying constantly between emotional family drama and all out action-thriller. Unfortunately for those involved, Snitch – despite all of its good intentions – fails miserably on almost all counts. Don’t expect a sequel to this misfiring drama-actioner.