Let’s get a couple of things straight from the start. This is not a rom-com about middle class shoplifters, neither is it a smash ’n’ grab action overload, starring The Rock. Instead, it confronts a serious defect in the American judicial system, “based on real events.”
Despite the appearance of Susan Sarandon, as a tough, ambitious US attorney, Ric Roman Waugh’s film cannot be passed over as political activism. It may expose an anomaly in the war against drugs, but is not in any shape or form a boring message movie.
Jason is a typical teenager, living with mom, not doing much, hardly seeing dad who runs a successful transport business. When his best friend asks him to accept a parcel of ecstasy pills and hang onto it for a day as a favour, he sort of says yes. It turns out to be a sting and the FBI grab him. He faces 10-30 years for possession unless he can give them the name of his dealer, in which case the sentence is reduced to 12-15 months.
Jason refuses, at which point Dad steps in and makes his own arrangement with the US attorney. If he can bring in a genuine hardcore dealer, one working with the Mexican cartels, Jason walks. What crazy justice is this, you may well ask. It’s called The Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws, which means if you snitch on your mates you get a slap on the wrist and if you don’t you rot behind bars until you’re too old to remember why you’re there. The film is made with integrity. The action and stunts don’t exceed the boundaries of possibility. You feel the tension as Jason’s dad digs ever deeper into the paranoid world of the racially exclusive dark end of the street. Dwayne Johnson’s performance is far removed from his usual big-muscles-talk roles (Fast & Furious 6, G.I.Joe: Retaliation). He is excellent and the film deserves higher praise than it may receive.