When he’s not piggybacking on already established franchises (“Journey 2,” “Fast Five,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), The Rock — sorry: Dwayne Johnson — periodically headlines shockingly dour thrillers that are more interesting than they should be without being all that interesting. 2010’s not very aptly titled “Faster” was sold as a revenge spectacular, only to reveal itself as a brooding, if humorless, look at guilt and rot. The new “Snitch” is even slower, draggier, humor-impaired.
Johnson is John Matthews, a moneyed father trying to take down a drug cartel after his son is busted with pills. His single-minded pursuit winds up embroiling Daniel (“The Walking Dead”‘s Jon Bernthal), an ex-con trying to make good who, desperate for cash, reluctantly serves as a link to the violent drug world. That John is so obsessed with saving his son he doesn’t think about endangering the life of another family man lends queasy complexity to what would typically be a straightforward family-first B-picture.
But is “Snitch” interesting or just stupid? Much of the film wobbles, drunkenly, between the two extremes. And right when John's toying with drug dealers and DEA heavies — including Barry Pepper, struggling mightily to overcome the funniest goatee since Evil Spock’s on “Star Trek” — would seem to have built to a spectacular quagmire, “Snitch” takes the easy way out. How? By visiting the gun shop. Guns make everything better.
“Snitch” is “inspired by true events,” which traditionally translates as “not much of this happened.” But writer Justin Hough (of “Revolutionary Road”) keeps relative fidelity to truth — or at least denies us lurid thrills. That may mean a classier film, but also a fairly boring and plodding one, and it’s never clear why you need to hire The Rock to play a straight dramatic role. Johnson is a secret comic talent but a bit monotonous when serious, and he’s not terribly convincing as an ordinary dad, unless most ordinary dads are built like refrigerators. “Snitch” would have greater verisimilitude — and entertainment value — starring someone whose arms didn’t have the breadth of some humans. (2 out of 5 Globes)