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'Snitch' review: Real problem, outrageous solution

* (out of four)

If I know ruthless drug dealers (which I don't, but still), I really don't think you can just approach their operation and say you want in. When trust is paramount, a new face, particularly one attached to a body the size of human anvil Dwayne Johnson, is the opposite of credible.

Yet that's exactly what construction manager John Matthews (Johnson) does successfully when he convinces vicious/gullible Missouri drug dealer Malik (Michael K. Williams of “The Wire”) that he should let John help transport giant drug shipments. What Malik might have learned with a quick Google search—worth noting: earlier in the film John reads the Wikipedia page for “drug cartel”—is that John's 18-year-old son Jason (Rafi Gavron) faces at least 10 years in prison due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws after Jason's picked up for accepting a package from his drug dealer pal. Since the prosecutor (Susan Sarandon, sleeping) will only reduce the sentence if Jason helps bring in other, bigger crooks and Jason refuses to set anyone up, John combines his love for his son with his massive physique to do for the DEA in a matter of weeks what probably would take years in a real-life investigation.

It's safe to say Jason would be screwed if his dad were Steve Carell.

Wait, the 112-minute “Snitch” is “inspired by true events,” which means almost nothing. It's certainly no excuse for the film generally presenting characters’ innocence as proportional to their whiteness or the story’s shockingly low energy, from its moody, strings-based score to its persistent lack of action.

Really, anyone who calls “Snitch” “action-packed” is flat-out lying. I think the movie actually made my heart beat slower.

From one of Johnson's vaguest performances to Barry Pepper's DEA agent whose goatee makes Jeff Bridges' “The Dude” look sophisticated, the acting in “Snitch” rarely rises above funny, which also goes for its presentation of the war on drugs. You're better off renting “The House I Live In,” Eugene Jarecki's upsetting documentary about the ineffectiveness and inherent racial bias behind many drug penalties and minimum sentences.

Or, hey, see “Snitch,” which shows the emotional impact of risky decisions but also suggests an average, determined dad can escape a mugging and near-carjacking with only a small nick on the side of the head. Good advice!

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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