Stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh gets his first wide release with Snitch, an appallingly titled movie charged with the task of proving that The Rock — Dwayne Johnson, if you insist — can act, while maintaining the sort of material that will appeal to his target audience. I haven’t decided whether Mr. Waugh is actually on a fool’s errand or merely charged with a thankless task, but the film doesn’t really work in either intended capacity. Granted, Johnson spends the entire film looking serious and even manages to shed a tear at one point. The former only reminds me of Carole Kane in Valentino (1977) remarking that, “Looking serious is a lot of hard work in this town,” and I am not convinced the latter wasn’t glycerin rolling down Johnson’s manly cheek. As action, the film is pretty weak tea — and with more obvious CGI than I might expect with a stuntman in the director’s chair.
It probably doesn’t help matters that Snitch is a fact-inspired movie that wants to outrage the viewer against the unfairness of the mandatory 10-year sentence for possessing drugs in sufficient quantity to be peddled. That is what construction company owner John Matthews (Johnson) finds himself up against when his very un-Rocklike son, Jason (Rafi Gavron, Celeste & Jesse Forever), becomes innocently (of course) involved in a drug deal. He also finds himself up against his son’s refusual to rat out any of his friends by way of bargaining leverage, and, even worse, there’s tough-as-nails conservative U.S. attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to deal with. What’s a dad to do? Well, go undercover himself and hand the DEA some big fish to fry. With preposterous ease, he manages to do just that — putting himself and his new family (Jason being from a previous marriage) at great risk. However, since Jason is always a little more battered and bruised (thanks to unconvincing makeup) every time his father visits him, a manly man just has to do what a manly man has to do.
The picture of the underworld and its labyrinthian connections is straight out of a hundred other movies. Worse, everything is so convenient — like Matthews having easy access to 18-wheelers he has just bought and, what’s more, knowing how to drive them. (My wife says this is because The Rock can do anything, but there’s really little evidence Johnson was doing much of the driving.) It all follows the exact template you expect and is frankly pretty darn dull and way too long. The main question I was left with — and one you might want to skip if you have any question about how this will turn out — is whether The Rock and his new family end up in a separate witness relocation program from the one his old family ends up in? Or do they all have to live in one house? I can see a sitcom in this. Rated PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande