Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Many of the greatest stories ever put to film dare to ask the toughest questions posed to mankind. "What is the meaning of life?" "What does it mean to be human?" "In a crazy world what does it mean to be sane?" These are just a few examples of the questions that upon leaving a theater a movie can instill in its audience.

The new film Snitch is such a forward-thinking film that it even managed to get me thinking about a number of things while I was in the theater! Here is a list of my thoughts:
To Do:
1. Laundry.
2. Shave head.
3. Write a book.
4. File taxes.
5. Vacuum car.
6. You get the idea...
Snitch is a film so tedious, so boring in its mediocrity that it screams out to be bad; at least a bad film would be memorable. Every moment is just so devoid of character and style that I began to pray that Nicolas Cage would show up to breathe some life into the production; if you don't know what I mean, invite all of your friends over and watch Vampire's Kiss.

One of the biggest mistakes that filmmakers can make is mistaking moral importance with dramatic importance. Just because a situation is morally questionable doesn't mean that it is dramatic. This is the same mistake that is made with "true stories" and historical biographies. It is the job of the filmmaker to find drama in these stories rather than just rely on their inherent truth to carry the film.

Snitch's story about drug trafficking and the overzealous drug war relies on both of these tropes to get its audience to invest in its story. That is just the beginning of the problems with Snitch.

The film tells the story of John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson aka "The Rock") and his suburbanite son, Jason (Rafi Gavron) whose best friend is trying to get him to receive a large shipment of MDMA for him. Jason is intrigued by the possibilities of using the drug but rejects his friend only to find the shipment on his doorstep the next day. Unfortunately for Jason, the box is also carrying a tracking device that leads the police to his eventual arrest and incarceration.

It turns out that his friend ratted him out to the police and was able to avoid the 10-year sentencing that Jason has now received. The only way out for Jason is if he can "snitch" on another drug dealer that would lead the police to an arrest. The problem is, Jason's only connection to the drug world was his turncoat friend. So now, to free his son, it is up to Dwayne Johnson's John to leave his white-collar job to make a citizen's arrest of a drug dealer.

It is an interesting premise, except for the fact that in the minds of the audience it is clear that not only is Jason legally innocent, but he is also morally innocent. This removes any moral ambiguity from the film and presents a black-and-white argument against the well-documented abuses of the "War on Drugs" that is just as one-dimensional as the very same black-and-white rationale for Jason's arrest that the film rails against.

It is especially hard to empathize with both Jason and John because Snitch gives us so little information about them. Characters are presented as if the moment they are no longer onscreen they cease to exist. The same goes for the acting throughout the film; even Susan Sarandon, playing the congressional nominee that sets John on his quest, can't manage to bring life to her character beyond that of a soap opera star.

While it is commendable of Dwayne Johnson to try and stretch his acting "muscles", it is almost impossible to believe that he is some white-collar Walter White who just so happens to have the muscle definition of a Spartan warrior. While watching the film I couldn't help but wonder what this movie would have been like if Kevin Costner or Dennis Quaid had taken his place.

The only actor who manages to elevate the shlocky and preachy script is Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) as the ex-con who guides John on his quest to take down a drug-lord. His character is actually presented with a compelling and tragic decision that the actor manages to successfully underplay. It is a standout in a film chock full of big clunky performances. Hopefully it will be the one positive thing to come out of a production like this.

Ric Waugh's visual direction is equally frustrating. Every shot couldn't possibly be any tighter, with actors’ faces filling the entire frame and often finding themselves cropped beyond recognition. Just when the film starts to get exciting, in one of its two standard action sequences, the camera begins to shake as if it was being filmed on a rocking horse mounted on a rolling cart in an Earthquake. This is unfortunate because these are the only moments in the film that I wanted to be able to see clearly.

Is Snitch the worst film ever made? No. It is just so average and uninteresting that it gets to a place that is worse than laughably bad; it is indifferently awful. Where is the insanity of Ed Wood or the pompousness of Michael Bay when you need them? I'd prefer their cinematic disasters to this boring, preachy by-the-numbers piece.

1 / 4 Reels


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