Iâ€™m supposed to be writing a review for "Snitch," the latest action thriller starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but thereâ€™s only one thing on my mind: a beard.
The tuft of hair belongs to Barry Pepper's chin, and it is admittedly mesmerizing. Itâ€™s a grungy-looking goatee that hangs two or three inches off Pepperâ€™s face and sharpens into a point. Every camera angle provides some new fascinating detail, and even when it seems the beard has worn out its welcome, Pepper ties it into a tight little ponytail for varietyâ€™s sake.
Pepperâ€™s mangy Van Dyke beard would be more at home in something like "True Grit" or "The Road." Iâ€™m more than thankful, however, that writer/director Ric Roman Waugh thought it was necessary because itâ€™s one of the only interesting things "Snitch" has to offer. Everything else is dull, drab and surprisingly preachy.
Johnson plays John Matthews, the ridiculously buff owner of a construction supply business and an all-around good guy. His fairly calm life takes a turn for the worse when his son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is mistakenly arrested in a drug sting with his friendâ€™s drugs and faces at least 10 years in prison thanks to the mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
The police offer to shorten Jasonâ€™s sentence if he helps them set up and arrest another dealer, but since heâ€™s not an actual dealer and not even really a user, he has no one to turn in. Plus, he doesnâ€™t want to set up an innocent guy â€“ like his friend did to him.
While Jason languishes in prison, Matthews volunteers to do the snitching in the place of his son. The election-minded U.S. Attorney (Susan Sarandon) takes the deal, and Matthews plots to entrap a local dealer (Michael K. Williams, Omar from "The Wire") with the reluctant help of one of his ex-con workers (Joe Bernthal from "The Walking Dead").
The desperate dadâ€™s plan might be too good, however, as he gets deep enough to start doing favors for a dangerous kingpin (Benjamin Bratt).
Much of "Snitch" plays as an indictment on the mandatory minimum laws and the sad realities of the countryâ€™s war on drugs. Every time we see Jason in prison â€“ with increasing amounts of bruising â€“ Antonio Pintoâ€™s score hammers on the sad violins, most of the government officials are uncooperative or self-serving and thereâ€™s a good deal of dialogue dedicated to the injustice of Jasonâ€™s sentencing.
I give Waugh and his co-writer Justin Haythe credit for attempting to give some weight to what appears to be a generic thriller, but the film is more noble than successful. The script simplifies the complicated mandatory minimum discussion into an unfortunately preachy sermon. A better look into the topic can be found in Eugene Jareckiâ€™s documentary "The House I Live In."
When it comes to the plot, the dialogue doesnâ€™t fare much better. It isnâ€™t offensively bad â€“ maybe a bit reliant on clichÃ©s Ââ€“ but itâ€™s lethally dull. Thereâ€™s no color or character to the conversations, which instead just drably move "Snitch" from scene to scene.
Waughâ€™s pacing aims for procedural drama, but it collides uncomfortably with the movieâ€™s Hollywoodization. I love Dwayne Johnson â€“ he has the charisma of Schwarzenegger combined with a touch of genuine acting talent â€“ but his role here isnâ€™t right for the former wrestling star. Itâ€™s hard to be convinced heâ€™s a vulnerable everyman in a realistic drama when his physicality and presence lords over every other character on screen. Brattâ€™s drug lord isnâ€™t much of a threat when Johnson looks like he could snap him in half without breaking a sweat.
Thatâ€™s not to say Johnson turns in a bad performance in "Snitch." Heâ€™s technically fine, but itâ€™s hard to find his effortless charisma underneath the characterâ€™s blandness and the filmâ€™s preachy importance. No one else in the cast fares much better except for Williams, who brings a slithery menace that reminds viewers why their friends keep pestering them to watch "The Wire."
Since it is a Johnson vehicle, there must inevitably be some action, too. Unfortunately, it doesnâ€™t happen until the last act and plays rather limply. Waugh is a believer in shaky cam, which makes the end freeway chase a typical mess of edits.
Worst of all, the action sequences feel entirely out of place with the rest of the film. Itâ€™s a silly shift from serious realistic drama to dumb overblown blow-â€˜em-up that fits as smoothly as a musical number at the end of "Zero Dark Thirty." A scene involving Johnson standing in front of rows of guns is one of the movieâ€™s biggest laughs, just because itâ€™s the official moment "Snitch" kisses reality goodbye and sets sail aboard the S.S. Ridiculous.
The film doesnâ€™t appear to have the confidence or conviction to follow through on its "true story" and instead goes for action movie heroics and a Hollywood ending.
Then again, the writersâ€™ conviction to the overall true story (originally reported by "Frontline") is pretty weak. James Settembrino is the real-life father, and his attempt to get his entrapped son out of prison featured no flipped semis. Settembrino had a drug bust set up with the government, but the arrangement fell through, and his son still served the time. So only about 15 minutes of "Snitch" is based on reality; the other 97 minutes are purely hypothetical.
Iâ€™d like to think Barry Pepperâ€™s beard was real though.Â
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published June 24, 2016
As OnMilwaukee's resident insufferable millennial, it is my job to look at the Summerfest lineup every year, scoff at all the bands and then resume snarkily Snapchatting a GIF-storm. However, there's still a lot worthy of your earholes this year.
Published June 21, 2016
Before the champagne had dried on the Cavaliers' celebration Sunday night, people already began looking for which sports fans were the saddest now that that city's losing streak was over. And wouldn't you know it, it's us. But really, Milwaukee is not the next Cleveland.
Published June 20, 2016
Inspired by an unexpected collaborator located several miles south, Postman's Plot - found on Wells Street and 2nd Street - now has an updated look with a plethora of new seating options and a mailbox to send letters to Milwaukee.
Published June 18, 2016
Businessman and star of CNBC's "The Profit" Marcus Lemonis has obviously gone places since his time at Marquette. But today, he's returned to the Cream City -- and he's apparently bringing some cameras with him.
Published June 13, 2016
The alt pop sister duo of Lily & Madeline have found an infectious combination of mesmerizing mellow music and potent, passionate lyrics. They'll bring that hypnotic mix to the Back Room at Colectivo Coffee on Prospect on Wednesday night.
Published June 13, 2016
According to a report from TMZ, rapper Lil Wayne's private jet from Milwaukee to California had to make an emergency landing today in Omaha, Neb., after the rapper suffered a seizure mid-flight.
Published June 13, 2016
Hearts and minds throughout the nation and the globe were with those who lost their lives and those who lost loved ones in Orlando. On Monday afternoon, City Hall joined in paying tribute and showing love, hanging a large pride flag from the building.
Published June 11, 2016
Ciclovia MKE will take to the streets for the first time this year on Sunday, June 12, shutting down several blocks for an afternoon of open streets, car-free commuting and community building through arts, activities and staying active.
Published June 8, 2016
Even though Milwaukee brands like Boy Blue or Mrs. Howe's are no longer adorning our streets or our grocery store shelves, you might start seeing them around town a little more often. Or at least their classic logos, thanks to Bygone Brand's T-shirts.
Published May 30, 2016
The Tony-winning musical "Kinky Boots" - coming to the Marcus Center starting Tuesday night - is a bold, bright tale of family, acceptance and fabulousness. For actor J. Harrison Ghee, however, it's a story that goes beyond just the stage.