On the latest episode of Reel Shorts, guest critic, Cynthia Fuchs of PopMatters looks at the crime drama, Snitch.
You Work for Us Now
You just grasp for whatever’s there, even if it’s right or if it’s wrong, you don’t really think too much about it. I know I didn’t think too much about it. I have a lot of second thoughts now, but I didn’t think too much about it at that time. — James Settembrino
Malik (Michael K. Williams) sits at a wooden table in a tiny house in a scary neighborhood in Jefferson City, Missouri. Framed in shadows, dressed in black, Malik gazes balefully at Daniel (Jon Bernthal), a onetime colleague in the drug business. Back in the day, Malik smiles, “We were moving product like we was the United Nations and shit.” Before you have much time to ponder this idea—that the world’s most prolific drug traffic is conducted by states and institutions, or maybe just the individuals who work for them—Malik notes their current and much sorrier state: “Two-strikers like us,” he says, “We can’t walk the street.”
Two-strikers like them have been convicted and sentenced twice according to mandatory minimum laws. Two-strikers like them know that if they’re busted again, they will die in prison, even as they know that outside, where they are now, they are also already caught, unable to walk the streets whether they’re still dealing, like Malik, or working a regular construction job, like Daniel.
For it is Daniel’s great misfortune in Snitch that he’s employed by John (Dwayne Johnson). At first, it seems a decent gig: the boss admires his work ethic, helps him with some manual labor, and even acts like a nice guy. This changes when John’s son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is arrested for receiving a package of enough MDMA to indicate an intent to sell, this because the friend who sent the package snitched on him to avoid his own sentence. Jason is up on his first strike: he lives in the suburbs and goes to high school. He’s a “good kid,” adults around him say more than once. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he’s not anything like the two-strikers Daniel and Malik. He’s got a chance.
In the logic of Snitch, he has this chance because of his father. On seeing Jason’s black eye and fearful behavior in front of a sinister (and yes, black) fellow inmate, John is determined to get Jason out. On learning the absurdity of the snitch system (that is, convictions at any cost), dad cuts a deal with the US Attorney, Keeghan (Susan Sarandon). She’ll reduce Jason’s 10-year minimum sentence if John can help her arrest a random dealer, say, Malik. John’s route to that end is Daniel, whose job application reveals his two prior convictions.
For his part, Jason is a cocky entrepreneur with a pretty wife, a young daughter, golf dates with local officials, and strained relationships with both Jason and Jason’s mom (Melina Kanakaredes). If John can’t be aware of all the ramifications of his agreement with Keeghan, the violence he’ll encounter from cartel guys or the shifty brutality of her deal-making, that’s all to the good of the film’s action sequences. And so John compels a reluctant Daniel to help him, which leads to the meeting with Malik, which leads in turn to John and Daniel driving one of John’s giant rigs to deliver drugs, as well as engage in gunfights, highway chases, and desperate betrayals.
To read the rest of the review, click here!