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Snitch (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 112 minutes.

OK for children.

When Jason (Rafi Gavron), the son of John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), gets imprisoned as a result of a DEA drug sting, John goes undercover to try to get an ambitious district attorney (Susan Sarandon) to reduce his prison time or release him. Alas, the task is a lot more complicated than appeared at the outset.

This is not Dwayne Johnson as “The Rock.” Here he is not a martial arts expert taking on, and vanquishing, all comers. Instead, he’s the owner of a trucking firm that is facing severe financial troubles. And, in fact, he gets beaten up in one scene.

Johnson once again proves he is not just a pretty face with the ability to lift one eyebrow. In fact he’s an actor of acceptable range who can take on disparate roles.

Ably directed (and co-written with Justin Haythe) by Ric Roman Waugh in his directorial debut (he is an experienced stuntman) this is a well-paced, high tension thriller that satisfies on every level. Waugh gets excellent performances from a fine cast, including Barry Pepper as an agent dedicated to arresting drug traffickers and Benjamin Bratt, who gives an astonishingly good performance as drug kingpin Juan Carlos “El Topo” Enterra. It’s not astonishing to find Bratt giving a good performance. Why it is astonishing to me is that he is almost unrecognizable in the role, reminiscent of Paul Newman’s role in Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man (1962) in which he played The Battler, an unidentified hobo. He did such a terrific job I didn’t realize it was superstar Paul Newman until I saw the credits.

Perhaps the best supporting role, however is given by Jon Bernthal as Matthews’ employee Daniel James, an ex-con who is trying to go straight, James is a key person in the film and his performance is exceptional. In fact, without the high quality of his performance, the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

There are some pretty good car chases involving a huge truck driven by John. The quality of the car chases is a cut above what one ordinarily sees. They were made more difficult because of the huge truck. They aren’t as hard to believe as car chases often become.

There are also several gunfights with fatalities, but what violence there is, is not so graphic as to be a turnoff.