Sunday, December 17, 2017
Things To Do

Review: 'Snitch' is solid as a Rock

Snitch is a movie that doesn't play its marquee star cheap. Dwayne Johnson leaves his preening pro wrestling persona at the door, never doffing his shirt or lifting an eyebrow while playing a guy in way over his head.

You know this isn't "The Rock" when punks roll Johnson's character and he doesn't fight back. Usually it's someone else who winds up leaning on crutches or flinching in fear. Snitch is grittily streetwise, and until its last 20 minutes fairly credible compared to other movies "inspired by" true stories.

Johnson impresses as John Matthews, a construction company owner whose son Jason (Rafi Gavron) gets busted by the DEA for accepting a shipment of ecstasy, set up by a friend saving his own tail. Jason faces 10 years in prison that a steely prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) will reduce if the teenager snitches on someone else. Jason refuses and John volunteers to infiltrate a drug cartel. For a "Rock" fan that's enough to leave a false impression that Snitch is all about butt-whipping.

Director and co-writer Ric Roman Waugh has something else cooking, a crisply detailed yarn about being caught in the middle between law and disorder. Despite his imposing size — Johnson can't hide that — John has no business entering such a high-stakes game. He isn't a former cop, Navy SEAL or some other macho profession such movies use to prepare heroes, or assure the audience they'll survive.

One of the movie's smartest moments occurs when John is introduced to a mid-level dealer (Michael Kenneth Williams), and immediately gets a pistol shoved in his face. John instinctively raises both hands in fearful submission, satisfying the dealer since an aggressive response would be the tip-off of a cop. Movies like Snitch typically don't include such self-doubting specifics, or athlete-actors capable of pulling them off.

In fact, the movie's first action doesn't erupt until an hour in, and John's only contribution is sheer panic causing collateral damage. Even in the finale, when Waugh is inspired more by every other action flick than any true story, John is essentially helpless, operating on trapped-animal instinct. Johnson doesn't look like an everyman but he portrays one convincingly, tears, fears and all.

Lending more emotional depth to Snitch is John's doorman to the drug culture, an employee and ex-con named Daniel James (Jon Bernthal). Daniel has his own son to protect in a tough neighborhood and hard financial times. John doesn't reveal to Daniel why he wants to meet dealers. Compromising this man's pledge to his family to go straight is selfishness making John less than heroic. Again, a smarter choice than movies like Snitch typically make.

There's more to admire here: Sarandon's conflict of interests with the DEA agent (Barry Pepper) assigned to John's case, Waugh's properly measured intrusions of worried wives and Benjamin Bratt's brief but effective turn as the cartel kingpin. But mostly there is Johnson's good performance, more solid than a Rock.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow him on Twitter @StevePersall.

Comments
Review: Liam Payne, Camila Cabello, Nick Jonas can’t save Tampa’s Jingle Ball from growing pains

Review: Liam Payne, Camila Cabello, Nick Jonas can’t save Tampa’s Jingle Ball from growing pains

Call it a growing year.Sure, the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball brought a few thrills; anything constructed with so many screaming teens in mind always does. All the twinkling wristbands and necklaces passed out among the nearly 10,000 fans at Amalie Arena gav...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Before Jingle Ball, Nick Jonas pops into Tampa Starbucks, buys coffee for fans

Before Jingle Ball, Nick Jonas pops into Tampa Starbucks, buys coffee for fans

The most exclusive pop concert in Tampa on Saturday wasn't the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball at Amalie Arena. Nor was it Zedd's after-party at the Ritz Ybor.No, the hottest spot in town was the Starbucks at the corner of Westshore and Kennedy, where Nick Jona...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: Florida State at Texas12:30 p.m.FS1Women: Georgia Tech at Georgia1 p.m.SECStony Brook at Providence2:30 p.m.FS1North Carolina at Tennessee3 p.m.ESPNSavannah State at Baylor3 p.m.Fox SunWomen: USF at Florida International...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Review: Katy Perry brings cartoon pop to spectacular life at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

Review: Katy Perry brings cartoon pop to spectacular life at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

God bless Katy Perry.Bless her Cirque du Soleil-sized vision for her Witness: The Tour, which careened into Tampa's Amalie Arena like a phantasmagoric freakshow on Friday. Bless her 15-foot flamingo puppets, her shed-sized golden dice, her army of ey...
Published: 12/16/17
Festivus 2017: Send us your grievances

Festivus 2017: Send us your grievances

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 9 hours ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingMiddleweights: Lemieux vs. Saunders9:30 p.m.HBOCollege basketballButler vs. PurduenoonFoxMiami at George WashingtonnoonCBSSNLouisville vs. MemphisnoonESPN2Detroit vs. MichigannoonESPNUNC-Greensboro at N.C. StatenoonFSFSeton Hall at Rutgers...
Published: 12/15/17
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Published: 12/15/17
Inside Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas tour since founder Paul O’Neill’s death in Tampa

Inside Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas tour since founder Paul O’Neill’s death in Tampa

A half hour to curtain, Al Pitrelli unwinds on a couch in his spartan dressing quarters, fresh off a loading-dock Marlboro.He's deep inside an arena in Birmingham, Ala., about to play the 29th show in the 18th city of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 1...
Published: 12/15/17
Big and Rich to replace the Band Perry at the 2018 Florida Strawberry Festival

Big and Rich to replace the Band Perry at the 2018 Florida Strawberry Festival

Big and Rich are comin' to Plant City.The larger-than-life country duo, along with their longtime MuzikMafia cohort Cowboy Troy, has been tapped to fill an open slot at the 2018 Florida Strawberry Festival at 7:30 p.m. March 3. They'll fill in for th...
Published: 12/15/17
Adam Savage’s ‘Brain Candy Live!’ at the Straz Center: Canceled

Adam Savage’s ‘Brain Candy Live!’ at the Straz Center: Canceled

Looks like the idea of Brain Candy Live! returning to Tampa Bay in 2018 turned out to be a myth.The interactive science spectacular, co-hosted by MythBusters' Adam Savage, has canceled its upcoming North American tour, including a May 5 event at the ...
Published: 12/15/17