VL at the Cine: Snitch

If you are wanting to check out a film this weekend, Snitch may be on that list. Many folks I know personally are choosing to see the film for one reason: Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock. So, before you make plans to check the film out read our review, which won’t have too many spoilers! Before we begin, check out the trailer below.

Based on “real events” is the first thing we notice and see in the film Snitch. What “real events” they are focusing on is racially white youth being arrested, charged, and tried for drug trafficking with the intent to sell/distribute. Now, this is not often a film plot I choose to want to see, but like many of my friends, there’s Dwayne Johnson. Isn’t that enough? Let me tell you if it is…

Dwayne Johnson as John Matthews, a self-made wealthy man who owns a fleet of trucks in the midwest. His son, Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) with ex partner Sylvie Collins (Melina Kanakaredes),  is a senior in high school who accepts a package that a “friend” sends to him via the mail and that package holds large amounts of narcotics in addition to DEA tracking devices. It was a set up.

What I find hard to believe from this starting point is: How does a big Black Samoan partner with a Mediterranean woman and have a racially white identified manchild? There’s just too much magical realism asked of me in that casting decision. I can’t suspend my belief that much to believe their child only identifies as racially white, but then again Jason does act like a self-entitled young white man (is it really an act?).

What continues is our viewing of John attempting to help his son get out of jail. The options John is presented with: help the DEA find more drug dealers and suppliers. John agrees to help the DEA (especially Agent Cooper performed by Barry Pepper who is costumed in all the working-class glory one can imagine) and John uses his corporate/wealthy connections to get an appointment with the District Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon). DEA Agent Cooper agrees to work with John and DA Keeghan, and this is when the film really gets started.

What we learn is that the DEA love Dodge Challenger’s (that’s really all they are driving, and this may be wrong as it could be a Charger, but I can’t tell the difference so feel free to gently correct me in the comments section). We also learn that John makes it a point to employ ex-convicts, whom he uses to his advantage to get connected to drug suppliers. His contact is Daniel (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead fame). What we don’t learn and what I leave confused with, is Daniel Latino? From the character’s surname, I’m going to assume he may not be. I struggled with understanding if this “shot caller” who has a Latina partner and a Latino child is also Latino. He speaks Spanish, threatens, and receives respect from local Latinos we are lead to believe are gang affiliated or involved. Do racially white men get this treatment in people of Color neighborhoods or am I to believe they do for this film?

Surprises in the film include Benjamin Bratt as Mexican cartel leader Juan Carlos “El Topo” Pintera and Michael K. Williams as drug supplier Malik. These surprises made me happy, but it also reminded me that Michael K Williams is continuously tight-cast as a drug dealer and violent Black man (see The Wire for reference). I literally cheered when I saw both of them on the screen.

Then my heart sank. Benjamin Bratt is forced to speak with a fake “Mexican” accent (see the trailer above). And then he was forced to wear some really ugly sunglasses at the same time he speaks with his fake “Mexican” accent. My heart also sank when the film was ending and I realized Dwayne Johnson was clothed the entire time! Talk about a disappointment! That would have been a super hot scene with Dwayne Johnson and Nadine Velazquez, who plays Analisa, his wife, getting it on! As my homeboy Sean said Snitch has “gotta be better than Tooth Fairy. Which I was disappointed that it was not about The Rock being a gay man with a oral fetish.” I can’t say it was better in this regard.

Additionally, I struggled with believing that a racially Black and Samoan man would ever choose to work on the side of racial profiling, exploitation, and structural white supremacy. All to help his racially white-identified son? Then I wondered: am I to suspend belief that Dwayne Johnson is playing a racially white man too? That’s NOT going to happen. I just couldn’t believe this was the “real events” of the story. I’d believed this narrative had Dwayne Johnson not been cast as John, but rather as El Topo. Had Bratt and Johnson swapped roles, this would have been more believable for me.

When thinking about the women and the roles they are in and presented as, this film does NOT pass the “Bechdel Test,” but I don’t use that as an assessment tool for films featuring women of Color. However, Susan Sarandon is the only woman who is seen with any type of power. Now, you may argue that John’s new wife Analisa is a source of support and constant encouragement of her husband, I’d argue what’s new? Sylvie cries 99% of the film, Daniel’s partner, Vanessa (Lela Loren), as a domestic worker/restaurant server and gets into the vibe of no longer being a single mother now that her partner has returned, and then SPOILER ALERT the real “snitch” is also a woman, a Latina at that! This is NOT a film women of Color will go to for seeing themselves reflected. We are not presented in any other way than to be the whiny mothers and partners of the men in the film. The only strong woman character is a white woman. What else is new?

To be clear, I’m usually going to be “team cartel” or “team drug dealer” in these Hollywood films that exploit the lives and experiences of people of Color. This is because I choose to view these films from the lens of understanding what structural and systemic issues come up that lead folks into underground economies. I don’t choose to view films that constantly murder Black and Latino men, but those are the only lives that are destroyed and eliminated throughout the film.

The fact that only Black and Latino men are murdered in this film speaks to the elitism we see as well. For example, I could not deal with all of the people who thought they were smarter, better, and “winning” over the drug dealers and cartels. Why do people think folks who work in underground economies are not intelligent? Just because John squirreled away some money and started his own multimillion dollar company does not make him smarter than a man who makes his millions in other ways.

Finally, as if to put the nail in the coffin for this film, the song “Informer” By Snow was not even on the soundtrack! Blasphemy! If I had a say in this film: Benjamin Bratt and Dwayne Johnson would switch roles, Jon Bernthal and Michael K. Williams would switch roles, clothing would not be readily available, and the song “Informer” would be used.

Alas! I’m not in charge, so all I can do is share with you what my concerns were watching this film. I was entertained, but I had a LOT of talking back at the screen think “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vivir Latino Style.”

VL Verdict: 2 of 5 stars (1 star for each man of Color with multiple speaking roles, then minus one star for each one of them that is murdered).

Post to Twitter