Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays a trucking company owner whose inexplicably Caucasian son (Rafi Gavron) is set up, arrested for his noncommittal involvement in a friend’s ecstasy dealing, and threatened with a harsh prison sentence unless he agrees to rat out the dealers he knows.  The young man is unwilling to cooperate, but his father, the Rock, is not prepared to see his son’s best years wasted in prison and petitions federal prosecutress Susan Sarandon to allow him to use his trucking business to help her reel in a bigger fish, who turns out to be El Topo, a major player in a Mexican drug cartel.  Johnson’s decision to play the Feds’ game is more than a gamble on his personal safety; by going undercover and involving himself with gangsters, he also incriminates an ex-con employee (Jon Bernthal) attempting to go straight and endangers both men’s families in the process.

Johnson brings a great deal of monstrous manliness and gravitas to any role simply by showing his face, and has little difficulty carrying a picture on his shoulders.  Snitch‘s script, however, is nothing special, and before viewers are treated to the fantastic truck action at the climax, they must endure several mopey scenes of family anguish and of Johnson being humiliated – which, frankly, seem somewhat beneath the Rock’s dignity as a larger-than-life action commodity, attempts at faithfulness to true events notwithstanding.  Likewise, the soundtrack of melodramatic violins seems somewhat out of place in a Rock picture, which would be better served by a punchier, angrier, hip-hoppier set of sounds.  More masculine energy and more action sequences spread throughout the film would make Snitch more satisfying, but highway violence on eighteen wheels, in everything from White Line Fever to Terminator 2, has always been a blast to watch, and Snitch, too, delivers in the end, earning 3.5 of 5 possible stars.

The evidence of personal experience is that the Rock’s presence in Snitch has attracted an audience of altogether substandard human types unlikely to be interested by or even aware of meaning apart from appeal to the basest instincts; nevertheless, Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Snitch is:

7. Anti-Christian.  Sarandon’s unlikable character wears a crucifix.

6. Liberal.  “The liberals think you’re a bitch,” self-interested congressional aspirant Sarandon’s political advisor informs her.  The viewer is left to assume that she must be the film’s representative Republican.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  An outdoor barbecue social, complete with a big, squishy, interracial kiss, seems to have been inserted to show that the races can interact socially in wholesome, non-criminal contexts so as to offset the other, less optimistic depictions in the film.

4. Diversity-skeptical.  Despite nos. 5 and 6 above, America’s accelerating diversity comes across as something much less than a strength in Snitch.  Blacks and Hispanics as represented in the film are largely criminal and violent, and a significant leer from a black inmate suggests that the beatings Gavron suffers in lock-up may be the result of racial targeting.  A black receptionist is uncaring when Johnson inquires about his son; a black woman judge’s ugly face conveys naked hostility toward Gavron; and a Hispanic guard at the jail is corrupt and in league with El Topo.

3. Surprisingly pro-liberty.  Johnson buys a gun to protect himself on the climactic run.  It works.

2. Pro-family.  Johnson and Bernthal, parallel characters in their concern for their respective sons, are good fathers at least in that they want to do the best thing for their families.  Both men have regretfully failed in this in multiple instances, with Bernthal having spent time in prison and Johnson’s first marriage having ended in divorce.  Still, family bonds are of central importance and motivate both protagonists.

1. Anti-state, at least with regard to the War on Drugs.  The threatened sentence for Johnson’s son is correctly depicted as overly harsh, as minimum sentence legislation aimed at locking up drug kingpins has instead had a disproportionate impact on low-level players in the trade.  Sarandon admits that the War on Drugs has been a failure, but persists in prosecuting it with a vengeance to score political points in her congressional campaign.  She is quite prepared, furthermore, to sacrifice innocent lives in achieving her personal ambitions.  The end credits prompt viewers to visit takepart.com/snitch, which, in addition to promoting the movie, offers statistics and a petition to end the high minimum sentences for minor drug offenders.  The film also implies that prison reform is necessary.

Advertisements