By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fact-based thriller paints harsh picture of drug trade.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A father's love knows no bounds, and justice will be served. Very strong anti-drug messages. Mistakes have consequences. Some means to the end aren't exactly legal, but the characters' motives are strong.
Positive Role Models
John Matthews is a committed, dedicated father who is aware of his shortcomings and is eager to make up for them. He's willing to put his life on the line to get his son out of jail -- no matter the stakes, no matter the danger. Matthews' son faces many difficult challenges, but his character stays strong.
Violence & Scariness
The body count is high, and the means to get there pretty brutal, with characters taking shots at each other with pistols, semi-automatics, and rifles, sometimes at close range and while driving. Other clashes include hand-to-hand combat and a character strangling another (though the main character never beats anyone up). Cars careen off the highway, crashing into others and/or exploding. There's plenty of discussion about how people are dispensed with by drug cartels once they're no longer considered useful. Threats to kids and families. A character in prison is beaten and (it's suggested) raped.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing between loving couples.
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Language includes "s--t," "goddammit," "p---y," "bitch," "hell," "ass," "damn," "crap," "oh my God," and more.
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Products & Purchases
Several labels/products are seen, including Skype, Dodge, GMC, iPhone, Apple, Ford, Bugati, and Wikipedia.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drugs -- specifically the shipment, sale, and use of MDMA/Ecstasy -- are at the heart of the story; marijuana and cocaine are also seen. Viewers don't see people using (except in one case where a character is forced to inhale cocaine to test whether it's genuine), but teens do talk about having popped some pills. Some drinking -- socially and when the main character is going through a rough time. A drug dealer smokes.
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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."
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Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
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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, Susan Sarandon, Michael Kenneth Williams
- Director: Ric Roman Waugh
- Inclusion Information: Bisexual actors
- Studio: Essential Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: drug content and sequences of violence
- Last updated: March 1, 2023
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