Snitch weirdly works

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Starring Dwayne Johnson and Susan Sarandon. Rated PG.

It’s hard to resist Dwayne Johnson, somehow. After all, who of us could pull off being the “Rock” and referring to ourselves in the third person? We’ve tried, but rather than deliver the “people’s elbow”, our trademark move has always been to run away.

And Johnson keeps at his movie career with Rocklike determination and, damn it, likability. So he’s not exactly Shakespearean, but he has conviction, which makes Snitch weirdly work on Rock terms, er, turf.

As crime thrillers go, it’s kind of a poor man’s Michael Mann, but you don’t really feel that poor watching it. Plus, it has Susan Sarandon for pedigree, Barry Pepper with a weird little biker beard, and crazy stunts involving semitrailers, which are always entertaining for the immature among us.

Johnson plays John Matthews, a construction-company owner who proposes to go undercover for the DEA in return for springing his teenage son Jason (Rafi Gavron) from possibly 10 years in a U.S. prison for a drug-deal mishap. The DEA (including Pepper’s undercover agent) and Sarandon’s tough DA go for John infiltrating the operation of a biggish dealer (Michael K. Williams) and then a scary Mexican cartel (led by Benjamin Bratt, being convincingly scary), while carrying, like, a digital recorder for evidence. But it’s “based on a true story”, so, okay.

Stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh (plus Revolutionary Road screenwriter Justin Haythe) has us between the Rock and a hard place by injecting a double dose of rather affecting father-son stuff. John ropes ex-con Daniel (charismatic Jon Bernthal) into the gig, and, surprise, Daniel has got his own Daniel Jr. to protect.

Yep, truck action, genuine feeling, and heavy weaponry wielded by people not speaking English. Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that Johnson’s voice is uncannily like Barack Obama’s? Huh.

Watch the trailer for Snitch.
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