Selling a 6'5", former wrestler dubbed "The Rock," as an "everyman" is no easy feat, yet writer/director Ric Roman Waugh's Snitch manages to organically knock Dwayne Johnson down a few notches. Johnson gracefully accepts the challenge, delivering his best performance to date as a dad grappling with a drug cartel in hopes of saving his son from imprisonment. The twist is that Johnson is anything but a superhero — he doesn't know how to work a gun, he can't drive a car at 300 mph, and he has no clue how to kick ass. What he does have is compassion for his family, and that's enough of a backbone to turn Snitchinto a better-than-average thriller.
After being caught at the center of an ecstasy-dealing sting operation, Jason (Rafi Gavron) is hauled away by the DEA and faced with 10 years in prison. His father, John (Johnson) begs a local politician (Susan Sarandon) for leniency, but he finds no luck: the only way around the mandatory minimum sentence laws in the U.S. is to "snitch" for the government, helping the feds find and capture bigger drug dealers. Since Jason isn't actually connected to the drug world, John proposes the next best thing: he'llgo hunting.
Waugh takes his time introducing us to the world of Snitch, carefully laying the tracks with research and character, so when the action picks up, it doesn't fly off the rails. Make no mistake: this is not a Faster sequel, a script giving Johnson the go-ahead to plow through faceless bad guys for two hours. There are stakes, and Waugh rips them from the headlines, the first third of Snitch feeling more like a newspaper exposé than an action movie. It all works to Johnson's favor, who settles in nicely in the imperfect suburban life and the dangerous underbelly he uncovers. With lots of whos, whats, and wheres to juggle, Snitchwinds up erring on the side of exposition too often, but it's all to add gravity to Johnson's insurmountable task.
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Snitch kicks into gear when John enlists his employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal) to break him into the world of drug smuggling. John makes Daniel, an ex-convict looking to stay out of trouble for the sake of his family, a deal he can't refuse, and the two embark on a mission to put ring leader Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams) in the crosshairs of the cops. With natural camera work and a welcome lack of ham (no "GIVE ME BACK MY SON!"s), Johnson and Bernthal capably build tension by fostering quiet moments that explode in their faces. Daniel routinely has to explain to his wife that he's out of trouble — a straight-up lie that ends in meltdown. In a scene early in the film, John heads to the wrong side of the tracks to dig up information, resulting in a gang of kids beating him to the round and stealing his car. Johnson as a low status character is a real shock in Snitch. When The Rock falls, he falls hard.
As teased in the trailer, Snitch does escalate, and the stuntman-turned-filmmaker Waugh competently stages his set pieces. It's a rarity: the shootouts and car chases in the movie feel like a backdrop for drama, not randomly placed moments of bombastic chaos. Snitch is high-octane in every department. The movie has rough edges — in an effort to complicate the situation, the movie steers away from the main plot to show a clash between Sarandon's morally-depraved politician and an undercover DEA agent (Barry Pepper, sporting a wild beard and another energetic performance). It's interesting, but not as captivating as Johnson's material, which builds momentum and remains gripping to the final moments. Snitch presents a terrifying scenario, worsened by the fact that it's really happened to guys a lot smaller than Dwayne Johnson.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
[Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment]
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Posters for his films may insist otherwise, but Dwayne Johnson will always be synonymous with "The Rock." His wrestling persona is ingrained in his identity — even when he's starring in a serious drama like his new movie Snitch, it's impossible not to slip and call it a "Rock movie." He entered the pop culture consciousness with his WWF handle, and through butt-kicking movie roles, has only solidified the title.
The fortifying moniker exudes confidence and strength, an essential part of what makes Johnson one of the go-to leading men for the next wave of action movies. It also provides Johnson with his greatest struggle: being considered an actor, not a wrestler-turned-actor.
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Johnson tells Hollywood.com that 10 years ago, he "was taken serious in a way only because I was very fortunate to be successful in another area." People took chances on him, but no one felt safe doing so. "It was a big risk. I didn't have any acting experience. The only thing I knew is that I was willing to put in the work and I wanted to be a good actor."
The fight for legitimacy is Johnson' real life action sequence, a mano a mano fight with filmmakers and audiences to be cast him in roles that require more than just swinging swords and punching bad guys in the face. His search for meaty material made him the perfect collaborator for Snitchdirector Ric Roman Waugh.
"I feel the connection with Ric, for sure," says Johnson. "He's a special guy. What you get with his films is authenticity. Sometimes it gets dirty and gritty. He likes it that way and I like it that way." Working with Waugh, Johnson found an in to a true story that could star a man of his stature, that would also knock him down a few levels in the status department. The actor couldn't wait to dive in. "It was really special to play a man who lived and did something unique and special in terms of going through hell to protect his son. Not only that, but has great vulnerability and great emotion. And not only that, in the face of crisis, in real world living, he crumbles."
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As Johnson searches for parts that will evolve his career, he continues to go back to his old movies, rewatching and studying them for inspiration. Yes, even the first ones — like his breakout role as the man-turned-monster the Scorpion King in 2002 's The Mummy 2.
"Making the transition… that role — part scorpion, part man — that launched my career. We've all got to start somewhere."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment]
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The remake of Total Recall never escapes the shadow of its Arnold Schwarzenegger-led predecessor — and strangely it feels like a choice. With a script that's nearly beat-for-beat the original film Total Recall plods along with enhanced special effects that bring to life an expansive sci-fi world and action scenes constructed to send eyes flipping backwards into skulls. Filling the cracks of the fractured film is a story that without knowledge of the Philip K. Dick adaptation's previous incarnation is barely decipherable. Those who haven't seen Paul Verhoeven's 1990 Total Recall? Time to get a few memory implants. 2012 Recall makes little sense with the cinematic foundation but it does zero favors to those out of the know.
Colin Farrell takes over duties from Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid a down-on-his-luck factory worker hoping to escape his stagnate existence with a boost from Rekall a company capable of engineering fake memories. Quaid calls the damp slums of "The Colony" home (one of two inhabitable parts of Earth) but he dreams of moving to the New Federation of Britain a pristine metropolis on the other side of the planet. When the futuristic treatment goes awry — caused by previously existing memories of our blue collar hero's supposed past life as a secret agent — Quaid emerges from Rekall with lethal power hidden under his mild-mannered persona. He quickly goes on the run escaping squads of soldiers robots and his assassin "wife " Lori (Kate Beckinsale) all hot on his tail. Total Recall turns into one long chase scene as Quaid unravels the mystery of his erased memories.
But when it comes to answers and heady sci-fi Total Recall falls short. Farrell isn't a hulking action star like Schwarzenegger but he's a performer that can sensitively explore any human crisis big or small. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld Live Free or Die Hard) never gives his leading man that opportunity. Farrell makes the best of the films occasional slow moment but the weight of Recall's mindf**k is suffocated in a series of fist fights hovercar pile-ups and foot chases pulled straight out of the latest platformer video game (a sequence that sends Quaid running across the geometric rooftop architecture of The Colony looks straight out of Super Mario Bros.). When Jessica Biel as Quaid's former romantic interest Melina and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as the power-hungry politico Cohaagen are finally woven into Farrell's feature length 50 yard dash it's too late — the movie isn't making sense and it's not about to regardless of the charm on screen.
The action is slick and the futuristic design is impeccable but without any time devoted to building the stakes Total Recall feels more like a HDTV demo than a thrilling blockbuster. The movie's greatest innovation is the central set piece "The Fall " an elevator that travels between the two cities at rapid speed. The towering keystone of mankind is a marvel but we never get to see it explore it or feel its implications on the world around it. Instead it's cemented as a CG background behind the craze of Farrell shooting his way through hoards of bad guys.
Science fiction more than any other dramatic genre twist demands attention to the details. New worlds aren't built on broad strokes. But Total Recall tries to get away with it in hopes that audiences will recall their own movie knowledge to support its faulty logic. The movie repeatedly prompts viewers to think back to the 1990 version with blatant fan service that's absolutely nonsensical in this restructured version (no longer does Quaid go to Mars but there's still a three-breasted alien?). The callbacks may have given Total Recall a "been there done that" feel but rarely is it coherent enough to get that far. By the closing credits you'll be struggling to remember what you spent the last two hours watching.
Ric Roman Waugh became a movie set thrill-seeker after worshipping Knievel as a child and now the Felon writer/director has been given the chance to tell his hero's life story on the big screen.
He'll adapt Leigh Montville's book The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil and Legend.
Waugh tells The Hollywood Reporter, "This is my Walk The Line (acclaimed Johnny Cash biopic). It's less about the stunts and more about an exploration of a man who let nothing stand in the way of his quest for fame and glory - including his own mortality."
No casting details had been announced as WENN went to press.
Let’s be honest here, if Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson snitches on your ass, he does not get stitches. That probably explains why he is willing to go undercover in Snitch. As the Hollywood Reporter correctly notes, Johnson seems to swing back and forth between action and family films, but right now, he seems to be in the action stage again. And in Snitch, he'll be the father of a jailed son who goes undercover to reduce his son’s sentence. Hopefully, many an elbow will be dropped in the name of the law and justice will be served ice cold. Ric Roman Waugh is directing and doing a rewrite on the Justin Haythe script.
Question: when can we start referring to Johnson as just Dwayne Johnson? How famous does he need to get before we can stop reminding people that he is/was The Rock? I bet he kind of gets tired of it because every time someone says The Rock in his name people automatically remember that he used to dress up in tights and wrestle with other oiled up monster men. I bet that isn’t exactly the image he wants in people’s minds when he’s trying to be a serious actor. I think a soft mumble-core performance followed by a tour across country promoting a country album would be enough for us to forget The Rock and accept him as Dwayne.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
January 31, 2003 5:02am EST
Described as "a contemporary Western on wheels " Biker Boyz tells the tale of underground motorcycle clubs in California one specifically called the Black Knights. The group's leader is a tough undefeated racer named Smoke (Laurence Fishburne) also known as the "King of Cali." Kid (Derek Luke) meanwhile is a young rider trying to work his way up the Black Knight ladder. But when his father (Eriq La Salle) Smoke's mechanic gets killed in a race Kid's ambition is to start a rival gang and become the new King of Cali. One "burn rubber not your soul" tattoo later Kid and his pals Stuntman (Brendan Fehr) and Primo (Rick Gonzalez) start the Biker Boyz gang and the world better look out because they make their own rules. Good grief--this story couldn't be less gripping if it tried. Despite throwing in a paternal plot twist Biker Boyz fails to engage because its protagonists Smoke and Kid are so damn unlikeable. Moviegoers expecting great crotch-rocket action sequences will instead be bombarded with lots of T&A.
The most staggering thing about Biker Boyz is how they managed to get so many stars to sign on. We're talking Fishburne Luke Orlando Jones and Djimon Hounsou all of whom seem to have gorged themselves at the all-you-can-eat testosterone buffet prior to filming. Fishburne (The Matrix) plays his character Smoke so stiffly his more tender scenes come off as absurd. A post-coital cuddle with onscreen lover Queenie (former Cosby Show kid Lisa Bonet) for example plays out coldly rather than passionately. Luke (Antwone Fisher) doesn't fare any better as Kid who is so angry and venomous that his tear-shedding scenes lose all their effect. Orlando Jones manages to churn out a good performance as Black Knight member Soul Train. A lawyer by day Jones' character is the only one that doesn't seem to have a massive chip on his shoulder--or a bone to pick with the rest of the universe.
Biker Boyz is based on an article written by freelance journalist Michael Gougis for the now-defunct Los Angeles New Times. While Gougis' factual feature probably made for a riveting read director/writer Reggie Rock Bythewood (Dancing in September) fails to transform it into an engaging fictionalized screenplay. In fact not even the film's eye candy--all those Japanese sport bikes and chromed-out American cruisers--make this film entertaining. For the triple-digit-speed street racing sequences Bythewood uses special effects straight out of the Japanese animated cartoon Speed Racer including blurry tunnel vision scenes and tons of speedometer shots. There are a couple of really flashy stunt scenes but there aren't enough of them to carry the flick forcing moviegoers to focus on the lame story and its sad sack of disconnected characters. In fact the story and its characters' plights are so insubstantial that the audience at the screening I attended laughed out loud at what were supposed to be some of the film's more poignant moments.