I can honestly say I have not to date really been a Dwayne Johnson fan. Not that I dislike him by any means. In action movies he has always delivered a solid action perfomance. It’s just that in my mind he never stood out. Until now I guess I thought of him as the carbon dioxide of action films; necessary on some level I’m sure (photosynthesis) but not nearly as interesting or fun as some of the other gases (oxygen or helium, for example).
The other thing about Dwayne Johnson is when you see him in a film you can pretty much put the movie into one of two categories: either an over the top action flick that stresses explosions over story or a dopey kids movie where he flies around on a giant bee or something. I honestly expected to see the first type when I rolled into the theater to see Snitch.
I now have to revise my opinion of Mr. Johnson. This film exceeds his normal boundaries in all ways by being well written, interesting, and founded on telling a story not showing car chases. I must applaud Dwayne for choosing it, and then proceeding to deliver a very credible performance. I was engaged with his character more than any other role I have seen him in and enjoyed his story very much. There were little character things I really liked, like his character staying at the warehouse to replace a shot out signal light on his brand new big rig.
That’s not to say the movie was flawless. There were a few issues, and you could occasionally see him revert to his super tough action guy persona. However, like a butterfly emerging timidly from it’s chrysalis and needed to flap it’s wings in order to dry and strengthen them I am going to say this film is the start of a more serious acting career and am very interested in seeing what he does next.
The other thing I enjoyed about this film is they managed to keep the action exciting and yet very believable. There were no monstrous explosions or gun fights where the good guy is effectively immune to bullets. What action there was seemed very realistic and there was a very believable Road Warrior-esque truck chase scene at the end that I really enjoyed. The truth is I’m getting sick of bigger explosions and car wrecks (just wait for my review of the new Die Hard film). Given that it has been established that the CGI and special effects technology is going to be amazing for any big budget film these days going bigger and more “exciting” just makes a film look more childish. This might be a positive symptom of a movie coming from a real life story (I remember thinking the same things about real life based movie Unstoppable) or it just might be a very smart and savvy decision made by the director to not gimmick his film up.
The story. John Mathews (Dwayne Johnson-Fast Five, Race to Witch Mountain, Journey 2: the Mysterious Island) owns a successful construction business in Missouri. His dopey 18 year old son (Rafi Gavron-the Cold Light of Day, Breaking and Entering, Mine Games) gets busted for receiving drugs in a way that has him being mostly innocent and due to draconian mandatory Federal sentencing laws gets 10 years. John begs the DA (Susan Sarandon-the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Thelma and Louise, Dead Man Walking) to help but she says she won’t do anything unless the kid helps her bust other drug dealers. John instead offers to help her himself and contacts a ex con working for him (Jon Bernthal-the Walking Dead, the Ghost Writer, Rampart. Walking Dead image courtesy of the Zombie T Shirt category) to introduce him to a local drug dealer (Michael Kenneth Williams-the Road, Gone Baby Gone, Brooklyn’s Finest). With the help of another DEA agent (Barry Pepper-Saving Private Ryan, True Grit, the Green Mile) they set up an operation where John uses one of his trucks to transport drugs.
The deal is soured when a rival drug cartel attacks them and John impresses the head guy with his coolness under fire. At the drop off bust rather than get the local guy the DEA agent opts to go up the chain to the bigger fish. John takes some convincing but in the end decides to help them out with a few twists of his own.
The stars. Good story. While it sounds like another drug action movie there were a lot of things going on, like a strong social commentary regarding the mandatory drug laws and the struggle of an ex con trying to get his life in order. Lots of plates spinning that made the story really engaging. Two stars. Good acting from pretty much everyone, especially Jon Bernthal IMO. One star. The limited action felt realistic and also felt like a necessary part of the story. In other words, the action facilitated the plot instead of the plot being a rickety rack to hang the action on. There were no tacked on scenes that made the film seem stupider. Two stars. Overall an impressive and enjoyable film. Two stars. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. While I understand the director was trying to say something about the unfairness of mandatory drug laws after a while I got a little tired of him beating it into our heads with the subtlety of a baseball bat with nails driven through it. One black hole. Once in a while you could see the old Dwayne Johnson acting style bleed through, setting him at odds with his characters main tone. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
Five stars total. A decent film worth watching. Date movie? Maybe. It’s not too action so she might get into the story but no real romance besides the fact that the two main dudes are married with kids and love their families. While nothing in this film will offend or turn her off, there is nothing here to really aid in your campaign to get her clothes off. Bathroom break? That’s easy. Any of the scenes where John goes to visit his son in prison. There is a plot point established there but it is running over three scenes so you could easily miss one and lose nothing.
Thanks for reading. Kind of a short review but honestly the ones I like end up getting the kid treatment. I did see the new Die Hard yesterday as well and just might have a few more words to share on that train wreck later on. Look for that review later today or tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review at the bottom of this article. Off topic questions or comments can be emailed to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.