In any war there are casualties among the innocent. “Collateral damage” is an ambiguous term when we hear about in a country far away, but what does it mean when it affects your own family?
“Snitch” is a sobering look at how small acts can have big consequences. In all of our lives we can recall things we have done that seemed small at the time, but the potential damage that could have resulted from our behavior is hard to imagine. One person has a couple of drinks and goes home with a headache. Another has two drinks and their impaired vision causes them to kill a mother in a crosswalk. One teenager takes drugs for years and eventually grows up and stops using substances. Another can make the seemingly same choice and find themselves in jail for years. Such is the case with the film “Snitch.” Based on true events, we are witness to the impact of the world of drug trafficking and how it affects one family in horrendous ways.
John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) owns a growing trucking business and has provided well for his current family and his previous wife and teenage son, Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron). In one seemingly minor event in this teenager’s life, he halfheartedly agrees to accept a package for a friend and keep it until the friend can get there to pick it up. Little does he realize that he is being set up for a Federal sting operation that lands him in jail and a possible incarceration that will be more than a decade long.
What follows is a look inside a drug war that is insidious and evil in every way possible. This is a war that surrounds us every day. The innocence of most teenagers provides little protection for the consequences of collateral damage in this war. The current laws on the books attempting to bring down the drug lords that are invading the United States are a wide sweep of anyone involved with little chance for compassion for the innocent or first-time offenders.
Knowing that his son has little chance of survival in a Federal prison, John decides to trade his life for that of his son’s. Although startled by the offer, Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) the Federal Magistrate, makes a deal with him to allow him to go under cover with his trucking business and to help capture a drug middleman transporting large amounts of drugs. What is uncovered, though, is a much larger connection to the drug cartels of Central America, and the Federal deal is not honored as proposed. Now both the son and the father are trapped in an international war of drugs. What comes next is a cascading series of events that will never allow John Matthews’ families, past and present, to regain their lives as they once knew them.
“Snitch” is a chilling look at the drug wars going on in every community in America. More chilling is the fact that anyone who is a parent of a teenager needs to understand how valuable their role is in rearing a child to respect the law and to build wisdom and discernment around the friends they keep and the impact of the influences that touch them. It is not a safe bet that our culture will teach our children values. It is only with recognition from every parent that they have a unique responsibility to live out a life of moral and ethical excellence in front of their families that will ever give them a chance of surviving the plagues that affect this current generation.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. The loss of innocent life is the impact evil most often has on human beings. How has this been true or not true in your own life?
2. Expecting a teenager to make a wise choice would not usually mean not helping a friend in need. How do we help our developing young adults to understand the possible dangers and know when helping is wise and when it is not? Do you believe the behavior of the father was wise?
3. Most parents will do anything for their children. How far would you go to keep your child out of prison?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.