Fact-based thriller paints harsh picture of drug trade.
  • Review Date: February 21, 2013
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.


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.


Some kissing between loving couples.


Language includes "s--t," "goddammit," "p---y," "bitch," "hell," "ass," "damn," "crap," "oh my God," and more.


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.

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?


Snitch 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), it 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 22, 2013
DVD release date:June 11, 2013
Cast:Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Michael K. Williams, Susan Sarandon
Director:Ric Roman Waugh
Studio:Essential Pictures
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:drug content and sequences of violence

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byMega_Teck February 24, 2013


Well , first if the kid that you are taking with you knows about drugs and their stories I don't think you'll have much trouble. 1. Positive Message: Seeing that it shows kids not to take drugs and what's the punishments 2. Violence: Car chases , minor blood and the prisoner getting assulted(rape) 3. Language: Some swear words not much 4.Drugs: The whole story is about drugs 1 more thing , it might be boring and you can loose interest easily
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byDan G. February 22, 2013

Too much violence and vulgar language for teens or children.

The movie has a good story and upholds a fairly decent set of values. However, there is considerable violence, some of it graphic, guns, a serious beating, profanity, and significant vulgar language.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byCarlos54 February 24, 2013

As a father this is the movie I'd LIKE my son to see

In judging suitability I have to think of what teens are exposed to in the real world. Without some "action" and yes I mean bullets flying and people dying on screen most teenage boys won't be interested. You can hope for something else--but this is the fact-presachy movies or with mild comedy themes without sex, action or violence are the most "uncool" movies for teens to see. Dwayne Johnson, as an extremely popular Pro Wrestler and muscle bound actor has the appeal that will get teen boys to listen, as opposed to the reality of preaching by most parents (aging and less than musclebound). He (as well as the two mothers) show the despair and heartache that dealing drugs can do to the entire family. Also his son faces the awful nature of what happens to young guys in prison---Teen boys ARE exposed to drugs early and there may well be peer pressure to deal to fund these habits (despite what you as parents might wish). This movie may help them understand what might happen if they succomb. Without the action/violence and Dwayne Johnson's presence as a tease no self respecting teen would want to see it--with it they might see and some will be deterred from the street life. Also for parents--many uncritically support politicians who are "tough on crime" and like mandatory minimum sentences. This movie graphically shows how these policies act in real life--where the ones that ten to get caught are the young and relatively innocent. Perhaps it will cause some folks to re-evalute their support for such rigid policies.


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