‘Snitch’ is surprisingly moving

When I heard about “Snitch,” the words drug dealers, guns and The Rock stuck in my mind. I went in with low expectations, assuming I would see plenty of action, shooting, muscles and corny one-liners.

What I did not expect was a movie about the unbreakable relationship between father and son.

The starring role is taken on by The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), who is known for films ranging from “The Scorpion King” -- an action packed movie with swords, monsters and rippling muscles -- to “The Tooth Fairy” -- a feel-good family movie in which he dons a tutu and wings. Johnson’s acting is usually limited to muscle head with a sword or muscle head with jokes and kids.

Honestly, I did not expect Johnson to step out of his comfort zone; but step out he did, and he did it with success.

“Snitch” tells the story of Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron), a kid who makes a stupid choice by allowing his best friend to ship him a box of pills to “hold” for a few days. When his drug dealing friend gets caught, he betrays Jason, sending him to prison. Jason takes a stand and refuses to help the district attorney (Susan Sarandon) by betraying his own friends. His father, John Matthews (Johnson) is heartbroken and tries to convince the D.A. to release his son. They finally come to a compromise: John will help take down a local drug dealer and his son gets off with parole.

Thus John, a regular guy, inexperienced with the crime scene, enlists the help of reformed drug dealer Daniel James (Jon Bernthal). Together they fight to take down the city’s criminals with the sole purpose of saving Jason from doing hard time.

Jason is an ordinary kid in a suburban neighborhood who makes a really bad decision. Unfortunately, with the mandatory minimum drug laws, offenders are expected to “snitch” on fellow drug dealers so they can earn a reduced sentence.

“Snitch” focuses on the flaws in the law, showing that first-time offenders suffer harsh consequences so that the authorities can use them to catch bigger criminals.

Social issues aside, the film truly shows what a father will do to keep his son safe. Every time John visits his son in prison, the agony that he faces is heart-wrenching. His resolve to save his son from the harsh prison life is almost physically visible in his face and body language.

Johnson does a fabulous job in his portrayal as an uncompromising father. He does not pull out a bunch of guns and start shooting the bad guys. He even gets jumped and throttled by a bunch of thugs on a street corner. Johnson does not single-handedly beat up seven drug dealers with the People’s Elbow, nor does he unrealistically jump from a moving vehicle to save a bus full of children. He simply plays the role of a father who would do anything for his child, no matter what the risk or cost.

Overall, the movie has a strange feel-good aspect, though it is full of guns and violence. Even the drug lord refuses to put his son in danger when he is surrounded by police. Though the film tries to make the mandatory minimum laws the focus of the movie, it becomes the story of fathers and sons and how far a parent will go when his child’s life is on the line. It actually hurts to watch at times, eliciting tears and dismay, but it is well worth the watch.