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I don’t typically care for films that begin with a political agenda, only to fill in the story later (see “Lions for Lambs,” “John Q.” or even “Avatar” as examples).

When I go to the movies, I prefer to watch fascinating stories told in the visual medium, where, like any good art, the inherent truths seep through and resonate deeper than my gag reflex. But when a movie is trying so hard to shove its message down my throat, it rarely gets any deeper.

Which makes my review of “Snitch” conflicted.

On one hand, this movie clearly has a political agenda – to portray as unjust and corrupted the mandatory minimum sentence laws for drug traffickers. The characters are cast as victims to these pitiless laws, and at least three times during the movie I felt the story was interrupted so the actors could bring us a public service announcement about these allegedly heinous laws.

On the other hand, when the PSAs were over, the stuff in between made for a pretty good movie, and one rife with parallels to deeper truths of self-sacrificial love and the fatherhood of God.

Perhaps because I have no particularly strong feelings or close relation to the laws in question, I was able to set aside the agenda and actually enjoy “Snitch” for the story.

And don’t let the muscle-bound tough guy on the poster fool you – this is not an action flick; it’s a story, and one told with heart.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in an unusual role for him – a father whose son has been unjustly imprisoned for drug crimes and who determines to risk his life to help the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to secure a deal that reduces his son’s sentence. He gets mixed up in a strange and seedier world than he’s accustomed to, crawling with deception, cartels and death. Yet “Snitch” is not about drug wars so much as it is about a father who will go to any length to save his children.

The supporting cast in the film is fairly strong, particularly Susan Sarandon and John Bernthal, who surround Johnson’s storyline with compelling performances of their own.

And for most of the film, Johnson does an excellent job in his role. His natural charisma and surprising acting skills carry him well through the scenes where he’s front and center; and when pressed into the film’s more action moments, he’s an action star.

Unfortunately, whenever he’s on screen with a costar to carry on a conversation, Johnson becomes clumsy and wooden. He just doesn’t do dialogue well and looks amateurish, particularly when contending with a force like Sarandon.

Yet all these caveats aside, and fully recognizing this film has a political agenda (I confess, I’m not sure how I feel about the mandatory minimum sentence laws), there’s plenty to like about this positive, redemptive tale of a broken father going to great lengths to restore his relationship with his son.

There’s also plenty of moments that parallel the truths of Scripture that could serve as moments to illustrate the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ.

For example, when Johnson’s character promises his son that he’ll rescue him from prison, the son asks, understandably, “How?”

“You just gotta trust me,” the father replies. “I love you.”

It’s only a few words, but in it resonates the cry of our heavenly Father, “You just gotta trust me. I love you.”

I couldn’t help but enjoy the parallel in another scene when a DEA officer explains that to free his son, the father will have to risk his life. The officer explains that drug cartels often ask people to carry “backpacks” of money over the border, then kill their “mules” on the other side. To earn the DEA chief’s favor and secure his child’s pardon, the father may never come back from Mexico.

“This is one serious backpack you’re about to carry,” the agent warns him.

I couldn’t help but wonder if a similar thought when through Jesus’ mind when contemplating the cross He would bear across His shoulders, the death He would face, to secure our pardon.

“That is one serious backpack you’re about to carry,” He may have said to Himself.

A surprisingly solid and positive story in the midst of Hollywood’s slow season, when Tinsel Town typically dumps forgettable films on the market, “Snitch” is a movie worth remembering … at least when you visit the rental store.

Content advisory:

  • “Snitch” is rated PG-13, with roughly 45 obscenities and profanities.
  • The movie’s only sexuality is a shirtless man and a pair of kisses between husband and wife. There’s also a brief comment from a politician that to curry favor with liberal constituents she should attend “a gay wedding.”
  • The film does contain some violence and plenty of gun-brandishing. Johnson’s character gets caught in a drug cartel shoot-out, another character storms a drug house and kills several people and there’s a lengthy car-chase scene involving guns, crashes and the like. A bit of blood and a few wounds are seen.
  • The film has no significant religious or occult content save for a cross worn around a woman’s neck and perhaps a particular tattoo.

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