Dwayne Johnson stars as a successful businessman who learns his son faces 10 tough years in a federal hole for drug possession. Convinced it was a set-up, he volunteers to become an undercover informant and infiltrate a ruthless cartel. Now, with his back against the wall and his life totally on the line, he must expose the true criminals before they discover his identity.
I was thoroughly impressed with Ric Roman Waugh’s Snitch, but for different reasons than you might expect. Inspired by true events like so many movies these days, this particular film produces a sense of true fear and hopelessness. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson leaves ‘The Rock‘ at home and plays a real human being who is in over his head with some real bad guys. Not only that, Johnson proves that his acting ability is worthy of not a WWE Championship, but an acting award.
Prior to the flick starting, I thought and actually discussed with a friend what I thought I'd get out of this film as the trailers portrayed it more as an action vehicle for ‘The Rock‘. What we all received instead was an amazing story and suspenseful drama about a father, John Matthews (Johnson) who is willing to do anything, and I mean anything to put a stop to his son Jason (Rafi Gavron) from serving a decade in federal prison under the mandatory-sentencing laws for first time drug offenders, which is a law that much of the population has a problem with. And what makes this incredibly tense and real is how Matthews goes about getting involved with vicious gangs and even a Mexican cartel.
Snitch is taken from an actual news report that focuses on an actual law that procures a reduced sentence in prison for the convict for information leading to the arrest of other drug dealers and suppliers. Justin Haythe’s screenplay takes on the legality of this law and dives deep into the struggles of the characters and the tough decisions they make, rather than show a muscular guy who goes around offing bad guys, as we’ve seen so many times before.
Jason, Matthews' son from a previous marriage, is arrested by the DEA for, against his better judgement, accepting a package from the postal service full of Ecstasy for a friend as a favor. There is enough ecstasy in the package to make thousands and thousands of dollars. However, it was a setup, and as soon as Jason opens the box to see what is in it, he is taken to prison and sentenced to ten years. Never having done anything like this before (not even a speeding ticket), the DEA is trying to get him to rat out people he knows in return for a shorter prison sentence, but Jason really doesn’t know anyone in the drug game at all.
Matthews is a successful businessman who owns a shipping and cement company and has a new family now. Seeing no other option, he phones a few friends who have connections to U.S. Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), who seems to be willing to do anything to keep her political power. Keeghan slowly agrees to allow Matthews help catch drug dealers in return for his son getting out of prison.
Things don’t work so smoothly at first, but Matthews takes in one of his employees by the name of Daniel Cruz (Jon Bernthal), who is a two-timer on drug distribution charges, but is on the straight and narrow now, getting his life turned around for his family, and pushes Daniel to introduce him to some of his former associates in the drug game. This leads to a meeting with big time criminal Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams), who after some suspenseful examinations, hires Matthews and Daniel to make a big drug run across state lines, using Matthews' 18-wheelers. Low and behold, the first action sequence takes place more than an hour into the film where our duo comes across a big Mexican Drug cartel led by Juan Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). In an undercover operation to take down Malik, Keeghan and under-cover DEA agent Cooper (Barry Pepper) decide to take down the cartel instead, which puts Matthews and Daniel into a much more dangerous situation, as this is the only way he can free his son.
Like I said, Snitch caught me off guard, as I expected another run-of-the-mill action movie for ‘The Rock‘. However, Johnson never delivers a punch or a kick in this movie as he is playing an average guy who is struggling with not only the fact that his only son might spend the next ten years in jail, but with the fact that his divorce from his ex-wife and his absence from his son’s life may have caused all of this. I’ve always seen Johnson’s charm and wit in every performance he has done, but with this, he shows great range into his dramatic ability as an actor. It was truly amazing and I think now he can move on to more dramatic films.
The rest of the cast does a decent job, but feels underused in most places as they don’t have enough screen time. That’s not the case with Michael K. Williams though. Every time he is off screen, I found myself wanting him to be on screen more. He just brings so much life and character to each role he plays, and even though he’s a bad guy in the movie, you root for him, just like we did in The Wire and Boardwalk Empire. And with Waugh being a stunt coordinator, the climactic vehicle chase is done very well with some tense and great cinematic moments as well as his camerawork with the actors which ups the suspense and keeps us interested in the next scene. Snitch was not what I was expecting, but it was far better than anything I could have hoped for. Don’t miss it.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Snitch comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc and a Blu-ray Disc of the film. The Blu-rays are Region A Locked. There is an insert for a Digital HD copy as well. The discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve too.
The UHD release of Snitch is presented in 4K Ultra HD with an HEVC H.265 encode in 2160p and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Snitch was shot digitally and up-converted to 4K UHD with an impressive HDR10 / WCG grading. The film doesn't boast tons of primary colors, as this is not a bright or particularly happy film. Instead, the film's colors are more neutral, bleak and cold.
The previous Blu-ray version had a great video presentation, but this new 4K UHD release marks a noticeable upgrade. Detail is much sharper and more vivid, especially during the darker lit scenes at night. Dwayne Johnson's heavy clothes show individual stitches nicely and the vehicles show water spots, dents, dirt, and debris easily. Facial features reveal scars, wounds, makeup effects, wrinkles, and individual hairs very nicely.
Wider shots of the highways and small town look equally good without any soft shots. Colors look more realistic and more vivid here, especially with the orange jail jumpsuits, Susan Sarandon's red hair, and some blood here and there. The rest of the picture is made up of varying shades of blue, green, and gray, which all look good, but doesn't necessarily pop like a Pixar film.
Black levels are deep and inky throughout with zero crush and the skin tones are always natural. There was no evidence of any compression problems here or any other video issues to notice, leaving this a solid upgraded video presentation from the previous release that compliments its own strengths.
This UHD release of Snitch has an English Dolby Atmos track that sounds excellent and nuanced on every level. Again, this isn't one of those typical Dwayne Johnson action blow-em-up movies. This is very subtle and low key in regards to his other films in the action department.
The previous Blu-ray release had a great DTS-HD 7.1 audio mix, but with the added height speakers, things are even more immersive and realistic. What sets this apart is that normal city sounds are very present with great sound atmospherics of cars driving by or helicopters flying overhead, making the whole experience fully immersive. People chattering in the courts or jail sound impressive as well.
It actually feels like you are with Mr. Johnson the entire way through this film. Sound effects are robust and full, but are not the type that you would hear in a Michael Bay film. It's much more realistic than that. Car chases and gun shots ring true and loud with a hefty low end that delivers great bass with every engine revving, car crash or gun blast. The dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills.
All the special features from the Snitch Blu-ray have been included and remain on the Blu-ray disc itself.
Audio Commentary with Director Ric Roman Waugh and Editor Jonathan Chibnall - A very good commentary track with Waugh taking the lead. He and Chibnall discuss the origins of the movie, the casting, and some fun things that happened on set, as well as some of this stylistic choices. Chibnall doesn't discuss a lot of the editing, but tends to add a good deal of information to the discussion.
Privileged Information: The Making of 'Snitch' (HD, 50 mins.) - A multi-part featurette about he making of the movie with cast and crew interviews, fun stories from filming on location, and some real life cases that this movie was based on. Definitely worth the watch.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 mins.) - Four deleted scenes that are worth watching. One of which might have given this movie an 'R' rating.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 mins.) - The trailer for the film.
This 4K UHD release of Snitch is definitely and upgrade in color and detail. So much so, it's worth the upgrade if you're a fan of the film. Since Dwayne Johnson is making 100 big action movies every year now, it's nice to know that this small little subtle drama film -- with a couple of low-key action sequences that involve Johnson not being the badass he usually is -- and to see the movie star has some range. There are no new extras here, but the previous extras are imported over, along with a digital copy and the standard Blu-ray version. Recommended!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.