Known to most of us only by his ring name — The Rock — Dwayne Johnson is considered one of the all-time stars of wrestling. Yes, that’s right, wrestler not actor, but that didn’t prevent him being paid a record-breaking $5.5 million for his debut role in The Scorpion King, which I’ve still to see. Since then, he has more than broken even in movies with such tantalising names as The Rundown and Be Cool, as well as Walking Tall, which at 6ft 5in and 260lbs, he accomplishes easily.
With his pumped-up proportions, being able to call The Rock a pal in real life must be great, but it’s hard to think him as an average Joe forced into a corner, which is what he is playing in Snitch — a film Johnson produced. Presumably he was sick of all the grunting and wisecracks he had to do in reels gone by and wanted to flex his acting muscles by playing an honest trucking company owner called John. John is the father of a teenager (Rafi Gavron) who is facing a 10-year prison sentence after unwittingly agreeing to receive a shipment of ecstasy tablets.
“But you can’t do that — my dad is The Rock,” is what the son should be saying. But this is a serious film that does quite well at offering a commentary on America’s war on drugs. In particular, it explores new laws involving mandatory sentencing that encourage even first-time offenders to stitch-up potentially innocent friends in exchange for leniency.
John’s son is that framed innocent and the only way he can help him is to strike a deal with a ruthless DA (unexpected Susan Sarandon), who wants him to provide information by infiltrating a drug cartel with the help of an ex-con (Jon Bernthal) and a narcotics cop played by Barry Pepper. Not to digress, but I always thought Pepper — so fabulous in Saving Private Ryan — would be a huge star, yet he has just hung about in the wings.
Though Snitch eventually diverts into more action-based territory, it is based on a true story and initiates an intelligent drug debate. This may seem incongruous in a film starring The Rock, but don’t wrestle with the notion too hard as you might be surprised.