A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Snitch is an action thriller that doesn't sugarcoat the violence inherent in the drug trade. There are plenty of bloody gunfights and shootings, some at close range, and other brutal clashes, too (a man is shown strangling another, etc.). Cars chase and drive into each other on freeways, crashing and exploding and claiming lives. Criminals threaten each other with words and weapons (mostly guns). There are also allusions to prisoners beating up others to exert their dominance. A teen is shown discussing the use of Ecstasy (though he's not seen actually using), and he and a friend plot the delivery and sale of drugs. There's also some social drinking and swearing, including "s--t," "hell," and "ass."
What's the story?
When his son Jason (Rafi Gavron), a high school senior, is arrested in a major narcotics bust, construction executive John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) is introduced to the brutal world of mandatory sentencing laws. Though Jason is just a naive player in this world, the feds, led by the prosecutor (Susan Sarandon), expect him to SNITCH, to give up someone up the chain as part of a plea deal. But Jason won't talk on principle -- and he doesn't know anyone else besides the one friend who snitched on him to begin with, anyway. So instead, Matthews decides to offer himself up as a bargaining chip to limit Jason's sentence. He'll go undercover and become the bait to lure the proverbial bigger fish, a drug dealer (Michael K. Williams) who's running the local trade. Matthews' new employee (Jon Bernthal) is his entrée to this netherworld, but the transaction grows much more complicated and dangerous when a Mexican drug lord known as El Topo (Benjamin Bratt) takes over the transaction.
Is it any good?
This moie has an uphill struggle from the get-go. Though its subject matter reeks of gravitas, it doesn't have the chops of a rich, complicated film like Traffic (despite a cast that includes the underused Sarandon and the top-rate Bratt), nor does it have the taut pacing of the Bourne movies. But for an action thriller with a message (that drug-sentencing laws for first-time offenders are massively unfair), Snitch moves at a good clip and lets the plot, based on a true story, unspool in a straightforward, if pedestrian, manner.
So, yes, it's entertaining. Johnson doesn't exhibit much range, but it suffices. He's convincing as a father focused on getting the job done -- negotiating his son's release from jail -- no matter the cost. The back story has just enough layering that we care a bit for the characters, and maybe even the social issues the film tries to illuminate. Snitch is no trailblazer, though not every movie has to be. It's really more of a two-and-a-half-star film than a three, but we'll give it the extra half star, anyway, for the eye-opening, fast-moving story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Snitch's messages. How does the movie's violent content affect the impact of any positive themes/take-aways?
How does the movie depict the drug trade? Do the consequences for use/dealing seem realistic? Fair?
Talk about how Jason gets in trouble in the first place. Is it believable? What do you think of the legal consequences of his one mistake? Do they seem fair?
- In theaters: February 22, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: June 11, 2013
- Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Michael K. Williams, Susan Sarandon
- Director: Ric Roman Waugh
- Studio: Essential Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: drug content and sequences of violence
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.