Teenagers do the darnedest things. Get drunk on passion pop, swap glandular fever infections, courier 1kg of ecstasy to their mate's houses …
Jason's best friend Craig needs a delivery address for his "special package". When a box containing a big bag of pills and an electronic tracer arrives on his doorstep, Jason and his plans for college take a flying leap out of his bedroom window.
Distant Dad John Matthews (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is happily remarried with a new family, a successful transport and construction business and a showy mansion in the suburbs. On hearing that Jason has been charged with trafficking and is now modelling an attractive orange jumpsuit, John is forced to do everything he can to help the family he's neglected.
Based (loosely) on a true story, Snitch questions the validity of the federal government's mandatory sentencing laws for first time offenders. After being caught mailing the package, Craig agrees to assist the police to catch another drug dealer in order to reduce his own sentence. As a result Jason is now facing 10 years minimum in prison. He is given the same option, dob in a druggie and have his sentence reduced. One problem – the only druggie he knows is the one who sent him the package in the first place.
Susan Sarandon plays Joanne Keeghan, the federal prosecutor who has the power to reduce Jason's sentence. With no children herself and a firm belief in the mandatory sentencing laws, she has little sympathy for Jason's plight. She is initially sceptical of John's plans to catch the drug lords himself in exchange for his son's early release but eventually agrees, on the condition he secures the capture of a major player.
After delving into the criminal history of his employees, he discovers that Daniel James (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead) has previously been in prison for drug possession. Daniel is now clean and trying to make a better life for himself and his young family and is initially resistant to John's offer of $10 000 for an introduction to one of the local kingpins. Upping the offer to $20 000 cements the deal and after a meeting with local ghetto dealer Malik they find themselves transporting drugs in bags of concrete.
Of course plans go awry, deals are made and broken on both sides of the law, families are threatened and Mexican accents abound. Johnson does well with a limited story to play with, though the movie seems to be lacking depth or background. Why is he now remarried with a new family? What happened with Jason's mum? How did Jason and his friend come to be transporting those quantities of drugs? And why is Joanne such a cold bitch? Sarandon does a great job as the politician more interested in winning the "war on drugs" and therefore the polls, than on actual justice being served while Benjamin Bratt has a bit of a sexy-Satan thing going on as Mexican drug lord "El Topo".
So a father finds himself in the drug trade to help out his family – sound familiar? My last couple of weeks have been spent cultivating an intense addiction to Breaking Bad, so I came to this screening feeling like a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to New Mexico's drug trade. When John and Daniel find themselves making the exchange in a junkyard, I was reminded of Jesse's comments in Breaking Bad along the lines of "A junk yard? This is the kind of place non-criminals choose because they think it's what criminals do. What's wrong with the mall?"
What's wrong with the mall?
If you share my addiction to Breaking Bad, then the story and the setting will be fairly familiar. The movie of course has the requisite gun fights and car chases, including a Terminator 2-style semi-trailer chase that leaves you wanting Arnie to appear and take out the drug lords with a mini-gun.
Snitch wraps up a little too quickly and neatly, although there is a suggestion that there may be reprisals for the family who wronged a Mexican drug cartel. It's an interesting concept with some solid performances that sheds light on a contentious issue – are the mandatory sentencing laws really helping to win the war on drugs? Snitch is easily watchable and I'd definitely chose it over some of the other movies out at the moment, but now I think I might go investigate the real life John Matthews for a more interesting storyline.