February 25, 2013 -- When I saw this film I was reminded of a documentary film I saw last year called “The House I Live In” which explores the huge mess caused by America's “War on Drugs.” The 2013 film, “Snitch” explores some of the same problems surrounding the War on Drugs. It is based on a true story. It is a frightening cautionary tale.
Action star Duane Johnson (AKA “The Rock”) takes a dramatic turn in this film, and he does a very nice job with this role. This is not the indestructible action star of “Fast Five.” This is a man who is out of his depth dealing with deadly drug dealers while trying to get his son out of jail. Johnson stars as John Matthews, the divorced owner of a small trucking company. One day he finds that his son has been arrested on drug charges and could face 10 years or more in prison due to mandatory sentencing laws.
John's son, Jason Collins (played by Rafi Gavron of “Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist” was set up by a friend desperate to stay out of prison. Jason's friend sends him a package for safekeeping. When Jason opens the package, he finds a supply of drugs and a tracking device. He is arrested and threatened with prison unless he “cooperates” by setting somebody else up the same way he was set up. He refuses.
Desperate to keep his son out of prison, John decides to try to do his own deal with a federal prosecutor, Joanne Keeghan (played by Susan Sarandon of “Cloud Atlas”). He offers to find a high-level drug dealer and set him up so federal agents can arrest him. In return, Keeghan agrees to reduce Jason's sentence.
John's first attempt to find drug dealers is a disaster. He is badly beaten and robbed by thugs. Next, he decides to do a deal with one of his employees who has a criminal record. Daniel James (Jon Bernthal of “Ghost Writer”). He offers Daniel $20,000 to introduce him to a high level drug dealer, Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams of “The Road”). John offers to ship drugs for Malik using trucks from his business. He says the drugs can easily be hidden amongst the cargo hauled by the big 16-wheel tractor-trailer rigs. Malik is suspicious, but he agrees to let John haul drugs, on the condition that John and Daniel handle the job personally.
John and Daniel drive some 1,000 miles where they pick up the drug packages at a junk yard. Another gang attacks John and Daniel at the junk yard, trying to steal the drugs. There is a gun battle between the two rival gangs. John and Daniel are right in the middle of it and just barely escape with their lives. Everything is set for an arrest of Malik and his gang at the drop-off, but at the last minute the agent in charge of the arrest, Cooper (Barry Pepper of “True Grit”) decides to let the crooks go when Malik says his supplier will arrange for the next shipment. He is hoping to snare someone higher up in the drug supply chain.
John is furious with Keeghan and Cooper. He had a deal with them and they backed out. He agrees to another drug run, but he wants a new deal for his son. Instead of a reduced sentence, he wants his son freed immediately. Keeghan agrees, but John has to deliver Juan Carlos 'El Topo' Pintera (Benjamin Bratt of “The Great Raid”) who is a leader of a powerful drug cartel. He finds out from Cooper that this is a money run, not a drug run, and he probably won't survive the run if he makes it to Mexico with the truck load of cash.
Since John can't trust the feds, or the drug cartels to do as they promised, he has to come up with a new plan, but he will need Daniel's help. Daniel is mad at John for putting him and his family in danger, so his help is questionable. It is an extremely high pressure situation. While the ending of the film is not all that believable, this film does illustrate why the “War on Drugs” is being lost. This film rates a B.
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