Snitch - DVD Review

'the story of an average, law-abiding man becoming embroiled in the seedy, cut-throat world of drug-dealing... at one point there’s even a mention of barrels full of acid being used for uncannily Heisenberg-esque purposes.'

The latest vehicle for Dwayne Johnson (apparently now far enough removed from his former pro-wrestling career to drop his mid-name moniker “The Rock”), Snitch has perhaps a surprising amount in common with one of the most talked-about small screen dramas of recent times, Breaking Bad. The film tells the story of an average, law-abiding man becoming embroiled in the seedy, cut-throat world of drug-dealing - the transportation side of things here rather than production - for the benefit of his family. At one point there’s even a mention of barrels full of acid being used for uncannily Heisenberg-esque purposes. But whilst Breaking Bad has been continually praised to near-saturation point for consistently achieving cinematic levels of acting, direction and production within a TV drama, the overriding criticism of Snitch is almost the polar opposite. This is a film which never escapes its underwhelmingly stagnant made-for-TV feel. Forget Breaking Bad, this is “Breaking Bored”.

Those looking for a balls-to-the-wall action romp will be sorely disappointed. Their mistake can largely be forgiven due to Snitch’s faulty marketing campaign, which misfires almost entirely; even the DVD menu has Johnson standing in a full-on Jason Statham stance, flames flaring up from the bottom of the screen and a heavy rock soundtrack (which never appears in the actual film) blaring in the background. Snitch actually boasts a grand total of two action sequences in its near two-hour run time, both of which fail to impress and feel awkwardly out of place when compared to the mostly understated crime drama director Ric Roman Waugh aims for during the rest of the film.

Unfortunately for Waugh, his understated crime drama direction is only marginally more successful than his misplaced action direction. Snitch takes a tedious amount of time to get to its main concept. Waugh weighs things down with forlorn exchanges between Johnson’s John Matthews and his ex-wife Sylvie (Melina Kanakaredes); melodramatic prison visits by John to his estranged son Jason (Rafi Gavron); and attempts by John to have reasonable conversations with members of the legal system, all of which are met by near-caricature levels of disdain and unhelpfulness.

In his defense, Johnson is never terrible in the lead role. He occasionally feels miscast, and more than occasionally has neither the dramatic depth nor range to satisfyingly pull off the role, but he has undeniable screen presence despite these shortcomings. In fact, Snitch is usually at its best when Johnson shares screen time with Jon Bernthal; theirs is hardly a screen partnership for the ages, but the two actors have some tangible chemistry at several points throughout. Elsewhere the casting ranges from pedestrian to dumbfounding. What Susan Sarandon is doing here is anyone’s guess - whatever it is, she’s clearly got her paycheque firmly in mind and little else.

It feels unfair to ruthlessly lay into Snitch for its weaknesses, being as it is never truly awful, just consistently dull, unambitious and unengaging. You’ll foresee most of the plot developments at least one step ahead of them happening, with Waugh and writing partner Justin Haythe’s script rarely managing to excite or surprise. Neither will you really care about what happens to any of the characters, with the safest and most predictable outcome ultimately coming about for pretty much everyone. A message displayed after the final shot fades to black suggests that what the director really wanted to achieve through his film was to say something about current drug possession laws in the US. It’s a message you’ll struggle to pinpoint in any moment beyond the first ten minutes of Snitch; in reality, all this final moralistic note does is leave you considering how consistently poor the execution by Waugh is here throughout.

Snitch is released on Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand in the UK on Monday 28th October.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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