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Originally published February 21, 2013 at 12:05 AM | Page modified February 21, 2013 at 3:12 PM

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Dwayne Johnson stars (without actually acting) in ‘Snitch’

A review of the dramatic thriller “Snitch,” which features the low-key charisma of Dwayne Johnson.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2.5 stars

“Snitch,” with
Dwayne Johnson,
Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Rafi Gavron, David Harbour, Benjamin Bratt, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, from a screenplay by Waugh and Justin Haythe. 112 minutes. Rated PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence. Several theaters.

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Johnson, like a number of other "actors", has a pleasing screen presence and... MORE
John Wayne comes to mind... not saying the Rock is John Wayne, but Wayne wasnt exaclty... MORE
without actually acting Ouch! MORE

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Like “Taken,” which warned parents that their Europe-bound daughters just might end up as sex slaves requiring Liam Neeson to save them, “Snitch” is a sort of public-service announcement. This time, we’re alerted to the grim fate of accidental teenage drug dealers — even those whose fathers look like action figures. In “Snitch,” an 18-year-old kid named Jason (Rafi Gavron) foolishly allows a friend to mail him a package of Ecstasy. Both are caught, but Jason’s plight is worse: His friend frames him and therefore gets a reduced sentence, while Jason, with no one to rat out, faces a mandatory 10 years in prison. Luckily, Jason’s dad, John (Dwayne Johnson), after looking up “drug cartels” on Wikipedia, offers a deal to a U.S. attorney (a huffy Susan Sarandon): He’ll go undercover into the drug trade and risk his own life, in exchange for leniency for his son.

No one’s going to mistake the massive Johnson (formerly a wrestling star known as The Rock) for a nuanced actor — he sometimes falters in moments that require, say, acting while walking. But he’s a likable, soothing presence, and he handles his devoted-father role with quiet confidence. Despite a couple of nifty car chases (including one in which a shiny truck even bigger than Johnson rolls and slides with unexpected and impressive grace), “Snitch” is more of a dramatic thriller than an action movie, and director Ric Roman Waugh fills it with close-ups, dark interiors and tense faces. (Johnson’s default expression is a sort of concerned stoicism, which suits the content well.) It’s a competent if unremarkable film, even though it lacks a certain suspense — you never fear for a moment that John won’t persevere in his quest to nab bad guys, save his son and amble into the sunset. Johnson, with his low-key charisma, may not yet be an actor, but he’s certainly a movie star.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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