Snitch Review (Kirk Haviland)

Snitch banner

Snitch Review

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jon Bernthal, Barry Pepper, Michael Kenneth Williams, Rafi Gavron, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Benjamin Bratt and Susan Sarandon

Written by Justin Haythe and Ric Roman Waugh

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh

A desperate father tries to save his teenage son from an unjust prison sentence by infiltrating a dangerous drug cartel in Snitch. The ‘Inspired by real events’ tale features Dwayne Johnson in a much more dramatic performance than the usual action packed extravaganzas we are used to seeing him in. Snitch plays out more slowly and methodically than the commercials and previews would have you believe, but is that a good or a bad thing?

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Businessman John Matthews (Johnson) is devastated when his 18-year-old son Jason (Gavron) receives a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence in federal prison. Jason is caught with a package he received from a friend, who set him up, containing illicit drugs. When Jason turns down an offer from politically ambitious U.S. Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Sarandon) to reduce his sentence by manufacturing evidence against someone else, John begs Keeghan to let him go undercover instead. John infiltrates a violent gang led by ruthless drug dealer Malik (Kenneth Williams) but he compromises another innocent man’s (Jon Bernthal) life and family in the process. And when he unexpectedly catches the eye of a major player in the Mexican drug trade (Bratt), the already dangerous venture turns potentially deadly.

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Snitch features a simply plotted script, some decent performances and one fantastic beard. Waugh has scripted and directed a pretty solid stripped down film without many twist and turns or even very many bells and whistles. The dialogue works though it’s kept pretty standard and just mainly used to propel the story as opposed to enhance it. Johnson actually shows some good range here in his performance, which should not come as too much of a surprise for those who have been following his career for a long period of time because he has shown versatility may times over, but may pleasantly surprise those only used to his action films. Of the main cast the only one who feels out of place is Kanakaredes as John’s ex-wife, whose presence here results in a role that ultimately becomes a throw away character. On the flip side, Velazquez’s turn as John new wife is a performance that actually begs for more screen time. And the aforementioned fantastic beard award belongs to Barry Pepper’s grizzled DEA agent who sports a serious goatee, and manages to ground the film by bringing to light the severity of John’s actions when everyone else seems to be glossing them over.

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The action sequences that are part of the movie are staged very effectively with some good camera work and pacing. The closing sequence includes a highway chase involving some cars and a semi-truck with a full trailer that crashes and bangs across multiple lanes of a freeway with vehicles impressively flying all over the place. The one thing not involved this time around is any physical fighting from Johnson, in fact Dwayne doesn’t punch a single soul, and the one action sequence in Snitch belongs to Bernthal.

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The film ends up clocking in just less than two hours and could have been trimmed a bit as some of the exposition and dramatic sections do drag a bit. That said the film still does a decent job, delivering a solid film that while not dazzling in any way does manage to get the job done. There are many other options in theaters right now that are far less entertaining than Snitch. Ultimately Snitch ends up as a mild recommend.

Till Next Time

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Arbitrage Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Photo courtesy of VVS Films

Arbitrage (2012)

Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Tim Roth and Graydon Carter

Directed by Nicholas Jarecki

MINOR SPOILERS

Robert Miller (Gere) is a self-assured second-generation business mogul. He has a measured self-effacement while giving one of many interviews that he gives to glossy publications. He’s celebrating his birthday with the three generations that make up his family but he whisks away because of work. Let me remind you that his wife Ellen is played by Susan Sarandon and that ‘work’ means he’s cheating on her. May God have mercy on his soul for I won’t.

The mistress is a needy French artist (Casta) who is angry at Robert for being late for his second birthday party. I don’t know if I sound soulless, but she doesn’t realize that Robert is a big shot Wall Street type who doesn’t have time for the people he supposedly loves. Hence, the dilemma of adultery of having to pleasure two women during one lifetime, the woeful predicament of someone who doesn’t want to tell one of them to eff off. Impulsively and out of guilt, he invites her to a weekend tryst fest on one of his properties upstate. They look like a movie couple until a fateful car accident. It’s a jolt that seems to make this different from your average movie about a troubled tycoon, unflinching in showing the woman’s death, giving its protagonist a bigger burden than he already has.

Oh, and one more thing, he’s a fraudster.

Photo courtesy of VVS Films

Keeping up appearances is naturally exhausting as Robert spends most of the time begging for mercy or money after his problems get exposed. Cases could be made for both, but I’ll say that he’s a passive protagonist. The movie finds a balance. He begs without looking needy or pathetic. From these moments we the audience can’t fully sympathize for him and we want him to be punished, yet we acknowledge that – and the masculine Stoicism within Gere’s deservedly praised performance helps in this point as well – he’s not a purely evil person.

Photo courtesy of VVS Films

To book him for either of his crimes, there are outside forces like Tim Roth’s street smart character Det. Michael Breyer, the actor stealing every scene he’s in. He’s growing into his age. But despite his bravado he’s more efficiently grilled on the inside by the two most important women in his life, his wife and his daughter. It’s my first time seeing Marling on-screen and although she’s not perfect, she’s a delightful presence and is as intelligent as her character demands. She or any of the supporting characters thankfully challenge him without having the unnecessary histrionics of ‘telling him off.’ The movie surrounding these characters seem conventional, but their performances and approach comes from justice and pain, a better angle than heavy-handed Schadenfreude ever will be.

Photo courtesy of VVS Films

In other words this movie is about how members of the 1% are bound for deviance and how the people within their cabal inflict punishment towards their own kind. The concept itself is unsatisfying. Without giving too much away, we see the constraints against a great man only for them to unfortunately loosen.

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