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Movie review: Snitch

"The Rock" surpasses his previous performances in this movie with a message.

Photo: Summit Entertainment

February 23, 2013 | 8:17 p.m. CST

Two things can be learned from Snitch. One, our drug laws are intense. Two, semi-trucks can win any battle, so think twice before cutting them off in traffic.

At least, that’s what drug cartel members learn when they let John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) into their ranks. Matthews is a construction company owner and truck driver whose son gets arrested for accepting a high amount of ecstasy in the mail for a friend. The only way they can keep the teenager’s sentence down is if Matthews helps them make drug arrests, which is a problem for this kid because apart from the friend who turned him in, he doesn’t know any other dealer-prone teens and refuses to set anyone up.

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That’s when Dad steps in, using ex-con Daniel James (Jon Bernthal) to get him into the local drug cartel and federal prosecutor Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to keep the feds on his side. Things soon escalate, and he realizes that he’s in a lot deeper than he planned to go.

Snitch has a decent script, an intriguing story and a balanced amount of action and plot. What separates it from other good-guy-gone-snitch stories is that it has a loud stance against the severity of first-time drug offender punishment. A non-Disney Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson film with a message? Who knew it could happen?

And Johnson proves he’s moved far beyond the days of the WWE and Fast Five. The acting is nothing we’ll see at the Oscars in 2014, but it’s better than anything you’ll get from his previous films. Bernthal gives a performance that reeks of Shane, his questionably loyal character on The Walking Dead, and Sarandon phones it in as the tough-talking, power-hungry politician.

A warning to viewers with motion-sickness issues: Some shot sequences rival that of Cloverfield, The Hunger Games and Bourne Ultimatum for their shakiness. In smaller scenes, all the drug lord clichés are there, including big SUVs, bodyguards and sets that look like they’re straight out of Breaking Bad. The film is set in Missouri like 2010’s Winter’s Bone — because apparently that’s where all the “based on a true story” drug movies take place.

Don’t expect too much of Snitch, but don’t discount it, either. Like a semi-truck, it has every capability of running you right off the road.

Vox Rating: V V

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