Johnson is set to flex his biceps in two big-budget sequels — “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Fast & Furious 6” — as well as Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain.” But first we get to watch The Rock flex his fatherly muscles in the grim action thriller “Snitch,” an uneasy mix of car chases, shootouts and hard-hitting melodrama that actually manages to establish itself as one surprisingly entertaining action picture.
The movie starts out with Johnson’s son, Jason (Rafi Gavron), being tossed in the slammer on bogus drug charges. The son facing up to ten years of confinement, Johnson hatches a plan to go undercover for the DEA and infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel in an attempt to reduce the boy’s sentence. Susan Sarandon flexes her own muscle as the head prosecutor in the case, and Barry Pepper is also on hand to mentor The Rock in his dangerous quest and model one of the craziest pointy beards this side of Tutankhamun.
“Snitch” has a premise that could have went one of two ways: It could have turned Johnson into a man-on-the-edge-with-nothing-to-lose, a guy who will spare no expense in getting his son out of the hoosegow, a man who suddenly learns how to crack people’s heads open on a whim because he is so pissed at the system. Or it could take a more realistic route, with The Rock actually getting beaten and bruised, a man who doesn’t magically go from Average Joe construction company owner to vengeful sociopath. Fortunately, “Snitch” takes the latter approach, which makes The Rock oceans more relatable than, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his heyday.
What’s interesting about “Snitch” is that it was based on true events (which is, of course, a moviemaking statement you should always take with a grain of salt). The film was inspired by a “Frontline” story about changes in the legal system that allowed the incarcerated to reduce their sentences by snitching on their accomplices. On the other hand, the movie has plenty of moments that have got to be fabricated for the sake of entertainment; surely, nobody in their right mind is going to engage in a high-speed semi-truck chase with legions of drug runners blasting at you with semi-automatic weapons, but hey, it sure brings the movie to one hell of a smashing climax.
On occasion, the movie backs itself into some predictably melodramatic corners (whenever Nadine Velazquez and Lela Loren start lecturing their men about risking their lives at the expense of their loved ones, they might as well be lecturing you to go get a refill). Still, as ridiculous as the action elements in “Snitch” often are, the movie itself is quite the crowd pleaser.
For Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s one down, three to go.
★★½ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13 for language, drug use and a fair amount of violence.
Director: Ric Roman Waugh. Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon.