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Snitch is Action Plus Teachable Moments

<i>Snitch</i> is Action Plus Teachable Moments

DVD Release Date: June 11, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: February 22, 2013
Rating: PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence
Genre: Action | Drama | Thriller
Run Time: 112 minutes
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Rafi Gavron, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bernthal, Barry Pepper, Melina Kanakaredes

It’s a fable for modern times, a cautionary tale inspired by true events... and it’s probably a good idea to take your teen to see it. Consider it a modern "scared straight" kind of story with lots of car chases and shootouts. Dad should go along, too. Not so much for the "dad to the rescue" plot as for the words that might hit home: "I got so caught up in not failing you as a father that that’s exactly what I did."

Snitch is definitely a father-son film, though the females in the family may enjoy it, too. It follows the adventures of John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson, Tooth Fairy), a stand up guy whose relationship with his son from his first marriage is on the rocky side. When young Jason (Rafi Gavron, Nick and Norah) makes a stupid mistake and lands in jail facing hard time, John decides he’ll do whatever it takes to make things right.

In John’s case, "whatever it takes" means cutting a deal with an ambitious prosecutor who has political aspirations. She’s played by Susan Sarandon (Enchanted), who apparently took the part either to show off her mean side or pay for work she appears to have had done (she looks fabulous but her character is all one note). This congressional wannabe has no qualms about putting a civilian and his family in mortal danger in order to boost her drug bust numbers.

Armed with a promised deal, John sets off to sniff out bad guys and bring them to justice in exchange for a reduced sentence for his son. He owns a construction/trucking company, so we’re treated to slow scenes of him wading through paperwork looking for an employee likely to be "connected." Naturally, he finds one. Daniel (Jon Bernthal) is a former con trying to go straight who doesn’t take long to set aside his good intentions and sign on to help his new boss become a big time drug runner.

After that it’s pretty much all tense meetings with drug dealers, shootings, and car and truck chases, occasionally punctuated by visits to jail to see Jason’s physical condition progressively worsen thanks to the attentions of his fellow inmates. Make no mistake; there is definitely an agenda to this film regarding mandatory sentence requirements for first-time non-violent offenders. There’s no question that what Jason did was wrong, but it was more a crime of stupidity than criminality. That’s what makes Snitch a good example about the dangers of running with the wrong crowd and how one bad decision can ruin your life.

Johnson shows an impressive array of emotions as the well-meaning dad who’s out of his league. While a fair amount of screen time goes to his accomplice’s backstory, this is Johnson’s film all the way. As Bernthal has pointed out in interviews, Snitch is definitely not a buddy movie. In fact, their relationship is a weak point in the film with any meaningful male bonding moments left on the cutting room floor. Barry Pepper, as the DEA agent who works with Matthews, is a suitably gritty but goodhearted tough guy, although his scraggly beard is more fascinating than his acting. Melina Kanakaredes has a few good turns as Jason’s mother, who can’t quite hide her bitterness over her situation compared to her ex-husband’s.

Considering the amount of carnage Matthews leaves behind on the road to his son’s redemption, one hopes the producers took liberties with the "true story" part. Once the action gets going it’s hard to stay too invested. The idea that this relatively naïve small business owner has the survival skills to outwit, outplay, and outlast major drug cartels and highly trained federal agents is a lot to swallow. But never mind, it’s still an action flick full of teachable moments with a strong father who is willing go out of his comfort zone to do what he thinks is best for his family. Sound familiar? Set the story in an earlier era, trade the big rig for a horse, and Snitch could be a classic Western.


  • Drugs/Alcohol: The crime in question is drug trafficking, so drug sales and use are seen and discussed. One instance is smoking of marijuana grown legally (for medicinal purposes) but stolen and smoked illegally. There’s a certain amount of drinking (hard liquor) by adults. One character is forced to snort coke.
  • Language/Profanity: The f-word is mercifully absent and other profanity much less present than one might expect given the drug dealer/bad guy cadre of characters. The Lord’s name taken in vain a few times, sometimes coupled with d**n; punk-a**, pu**y pig, b**tch, and bulls**t
  • Sex/Nudity: Kissing by two couples, both married. Veiled reference to potential rape of male inmate, presumably by another male, though we don’t find out if it actually occurred. Man shown without a shirt (giving an excellent look at his many tattoos).
  • Violence: Beatings; wounded males shown post-beatings; people threatened with guns; shootings; people killed by gunshots; car chases; violent, flaming, flying-off-a-cliff style car crashes; bodies shown being buried in a mass grave. It doesn’t feel quite as vicious as all that sounds, probably because the shootings are relatively bloodless and the violence borders on cartoonish.
  • Spiritual Themes: A father puts himself at risk for his son in a substitutionary sacrifice. There are many teachable moments here, from being careful who your friends are to thinking before you act to having the courage to do the right thing. It could be an excellent conversation starter, especially for parents of teens.

Publication date: February 22, 2013