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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Snitch

June 9th, 2013

Snitch - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Snitch opened in late February, which is not a great time of year to release a major hit. It is not a complete dumping ground like January or September, but most films released during this month will be lucky just to become a midlevel hit. Snitch topped admittedly low expectations becoming a middling hit. A final box office of $43 million isn't bad for that time of year. Does this also describe its quality. Is it not bad, for a February release? Or is it better than its box office numbers would indicate?

The Movie

The film begins with an introduction to Jason Collins. He's on a Skype call with his friend, Craig, who is trying to get him involved in a drug deal. He's got some Ecstasy he needs sent to the states, so he wants to send it to Jason's house and he will pick it up the next day. At first, Jason is dead set against this, but when the package arrives anyway, Jason signs for it and even looks inside. This turns out to be a huge mistake, as Craig doesn't actually have a shipment of drugs, but was busted with drugs. In order to get his sentence reduced, he needed to turn in someone else, and he choose Jason.

In the meantime, we are introduced to Jason's parents. He lives with his mother, Sylvie, but he's estranged from his father, John Matthews. While hosting a party at his house, John gets a call from Sylvie that Jason has been arrested. At first, they think it isn't too serious; maybe Jason will get probation. However, with the amount of drugs involved, Jason is looking at a minimum of ten years in prison. Jason could get his prison sentence reduced, if he turns in another person. Jason refuses. He can't send another innocent person to jail just to reduce his sentence.

John has enough connections through his construction company to get a meeting with the D.A., Joanne Keeghan, and asks her if she can reduce Jason's sentence. Even when John offers to catch the drug dealers for his son, she says no. However, when John goes to see Jason in prison, and he sees how poorly his son is doing, he gets desperate. (He also gets stupid, but the details are spoilers.) He finally convinces Joanne to let him help his son, but to do that, he will need a contact with a major drug trafficker. Fortunately, his construction company has someone on the payroll who has two strikes for drug trafficking, Daniel James, and he asks Daniel to introduce him to someone who would be interested in moving drugs. At first Daniel refuses. He has two strikes, so even talking about this would land him in prison for life and not even an offer of $20,000 is enough to change his mind. However, when he sees his son hanging with some local dealers, he realizes he needs the money to get out of that neighborhood.

That's enough of the setup to know what you are getting and from this point on, we start running into some pretty heavy spoilers.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this film. On the one hand, this film is a smarter movie than most action films are. It is certainly smarter than the Fast and the Furious films, for instance. It avoids a lot of the action movie clichés I was worried it would rely on. At least till the end. That's the other hand. The final climactic scenes certainly drift into more standard action movie material and that hurts the film's effectiveness. However, until then, the movie does a good job at dealing with the more serious and suspenseful aspects of the subject matter. Throughout the movie we do get a glimpse at how the War on Drugs has gone a little overboard, although that could have been a little more forceful in its execution. For instance, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it is considered more dangerous than Meth. It is considered a Schedule I drug, despite having proven medical benefits. The end title card does rectify that a little; it is insane that first-time non-violent drug offenders will get more jail time than the average child molester.

Snitch also benefits from strong acting across the board. Dwayne Johnson gives what might be his best dramatic performance in his career so far. It is a little hard to picture him as a man over-his-head, as he has such a physically impressive presence. Perhaps a less intimidating actor would have been a more natural fit, but I'm glad he's able to try something new.

The Extras

There are not a lot of extras in terms of numbers, but most of them are rather meaty. First, there is an audio commentary track with the director, Ric Roman Waugh, and the editor, Jonathan Chibnall. Next up is a making of featurette, but it's not a tiny fluff piece, but a three-part, 50-minute documentary. Finally, there are four deleted scenes.

The technical presentation is great. There are a few scenes where the details are not quite as sharp, while the blacks are perhaps not quite as deep as they could be. Also, the colors are muted somewhat, but that was an aesthetic choice. The 7.1 surround sound track is just as good as the video, perhaps a little better. There's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including some excellent directional effects in the gun fights.

The Blu-ray costs $5 or 33% more than the DVD, which is acceptable, but not a bargain.

The Verdict

Snitch does enough right that it is worth checking out, but it is not a classic of the genre. The DVD and the Blu-ray have enough extras that it is worth picking up over just renting.

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Filed under: Video Review, Snitch, Fast and the Furious, Jon Bernthal, Rafi Gavron, Dwayne Johnson, Melina Kanakaredes, Susan Sarandon, Ric Roman Waugh, James Allen McCune, Jonathan Chibnall