Under the shrewd eye of undercover Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper), John pressures one of his employees, Daniel James (“The Walking Dead's” Jon Bernthal), a two-time ex-con desperately trying to stay straight for the sake of his own son, to introduce him to known drug runner Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams).
Claiming that the bad economy has slashed his company's bottom line, John offers a deal to transport “product” in his 18-wheelers. It's clear from the moment he meets the fiercely suspicious Malik that the businessman may be a beefy guy but he's clearly out of his depth amongst hardened criminals. After a tense face-off, though, Malik agrees to let John make a test run to the Mexican border, as long as Daniel rides shotgun.
Once the bullets start flying, John proves cool enough under fire to attract the attention of Malik's supplier, Mexican kingpin Juan Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). And Keeghan, a Congressional hopeful looking for a big bust to put her ahead in the campaign, pushes John to take ever-bigger risks in his quest to free his son.
The first action set piece doesn't arrive until the halfway point of “Snitch,” which may try the patience of moviegoers who just want the cinematic thrill of watching The Rock taking it to some bad guys. Waugh brings a hard-hitting, old-school veracity to the sequences, particularly a rousing chase including a semi.
Johnson, who also is a producer on “Snitch,” handles the action scenes with familiar ease and capably conveys his character's fatherly desperation and determination. But he struggles to convincingly deliver some of the expository dialogue, which is clunkier than it ought to be anyway. Surprising and disappointing is Sarandon's flat and one-dimensional performance.
Waugh finishes the film with some sobering facts about mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses compared to other violent crimes. It should at least get people thinking. And thinking, even when you're catching an action flick, is good.
— Brandy McDonnell