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Friday, July 11, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 75.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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MOVIES

Snitch is an action film with an ax to grind
When ideology kills

A dad has trouble hearing his conscience.
A dad has trouble hearing his conscience.
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Snitch is a socially conscious action-adventure film that's also an indictment of the federal government's minimum-punishment guidelines for drug offenses. Though it criticizes drug gangs for being violent and corrupt, it slams the legal system even harder for punishing minor-level offenses with prison terms much harsher than those rapists and murders receive.

Our protagonist is John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), the head of a transportation company. His son, Jason (Rafi Gevron), is pressured into accepting a drug shipment from one of his closest friends. Unfortunately, it's a trap this friend has set up as part of a plea deal. Jason, who knows no drug dealers, refuses to rat out his buddy and is thus put behind bars to await what will be a mandatory 10-year sentence. As soon as he is imprisoned, he gets beaten by fellow inmates. Outraged and distressed, John takes matters into his own hands. To significantly reduce his son's sentence, he decides to set up a drug dealer the feds are eager to catch.

As the film barrels ahead with passionate fury, it ignores much of the moral quicksand it's trying to traverse. This causes problems. For instance, John uses an ex-con employee (John Bernthal) to set up the dealer. He uses money to lure this man back into a life of crime and then makes him a target for retribution. Never mind the time and effort this guy has spent cleaning up his life.

Johnson is excellent, as is the entire cast. Sadly, Snitch is torn between being an ideological drama and a more traditional action film. It's a story of betrayals that lack a grand purpose. No one's trying to save the world or redeem himself. The characters are just doing what they think is best for themselves, their careers and their families.

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