Dwayne Johnson may be best known as a wham bam action hero, but in Snitch the man who propelled himself to fame with the people's eyebrow makes a sidestep into more dramatic territory. Gone is the unrelenting badassery of the Fast & Furious saga's Luke Hobbs in favour of a dialled down turn as a father who'll do anything to save his teenage son from a lengthy, life-sapping prison stretch.
Johnson plays John Matthews, a construction magnate who's shaken up when son Jason (Rafi Gavron) gets busted for aiding in a drug import. Severe narcotics laws - even for a first-timer - mean Jason is faced with the prospect of decades behind bars (and he quickly becomes prison punch bag), so John strikes a deal with the DEA and ball-busting DA Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) to flush out drug lords in return for leniency on his son's sentence.
Both men put themselves (and their families) in jeopardy as they dive deeper into the criminal underworld, smuggling product to the Mexican border in an inconspicuous haulage truck thanks to local gangster Malik (Michael K Williams channeling a little of his Wire character Omar Little).
This may sound a little far-fetched, but Justin Haythe and director Ric Roman Waugh's script is actually inspired by real events. What's undeniably credibility-cracking though is the idea of The Rock as an Ordinary Joe in jeopardy. Johnson proves to be a capable actor in this new terrain, but it's still a case of miscasting. His presence robs the story of its tension and suspense, and the baggage from being an indestructible big-screen force means you never feel he's in real peril.
Snitch falls somewhere between being a talky, war on drugs 'issues' drama and full-tilt thriller. Unfortunately, it succeeds at neither, instead coming across like a watered-down Traffic when it seeks dramatic weight and a half-baked action movie when it wants to set the pulse racing. There's even a car chase towards the finale that's so pedestrian it'll leave you craving for the hyperreal mayhem of The Rock's Fast & Furious oeuvre.
Ultimately, this is a film for Dwayne Johnson completists only. It isn't tooled to its leading man's strengths, asking him to dull his natural screen charisma and trade in quips and self-confidence for brooding internal anguish. He strikes up a decent partnership with Bernthal, but their scenes only hint at the Shane Black-style throwback buddy flick this could have been. As it is, Snitch gets lost trying to embrace murkier shades of grey.