Snitch | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


A dull excursion into the mechanics of becoming a vigilante narc


Ric Roman Waugh's drama pretends to care about unfair mandatory-minimum sentencing for drug trafficking.  (It is very loosely based on a 1999 Frontline episode about informants.) But, halfway through this head-scratching, thrill-less bore-fest, I thought: This film is a sentence.

The film's marketing forefronts its star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (and his giant arms), but Johnson left his bag of tricks at home: no beaming smiles, no funny lines, no action. Look, The Rock isn't Olivier, but he's got plenty of charismatic screen presence, none of which is in evidence here.

The plot, dialogue and acting are strictly TV movie. After his sniveling son winds up staring at a 10-year bid for receiving drugs in the mail, Missouri construction magnate John Matthews (Johnson) makes a deal with the local U.S. attorney (Susan Sarandon). He'll locate a bigger drug dealer, and trade that dude for his son's freedom. (I was previously unaware of the "barter" option in U.S. law.) 

So with the reluctant help of an ex-con employee (Jon Bernthal), Matthews goes freelance undercover to ensnare the scourge of Missouri-burg, mini-drug-kingpin Malik (Michael K. Williams, a.k.a. "Omar," from The Wire, a.k.a. not much of a stretch). But on the first drug buy, shit gets real rapido, after a Mexican cartel hombre known as El Topo (Benjamin Bratt) takes notice of Matthews' superior truck-driving skills, and offers Matthews a huge — and hugely illegal — deal he cannot refuse.

 Not only is the story inane and lifeless, but Snitch dares to suggest that the solution for too-tough drug laws is for more of us to become shotgun-pumping, mayhem-wreaking vigilante undercover narcs in exchange for letting people we know out of jail. But honestly, this turgid mess makes writing your Congressperson look like more fun.

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