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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Snitch

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Dwayne Johnson and Melina Kanakaredes star in a scene from the movie "Snitch."
How should society balance the government's need to combat drug use—and its attendant evils—against the right of a citizen to be judged and punished according to the individual circumstances of his or her case?

If the fact-based film "Snitch" (Summit) is any evidence, the current use of mandatory sentences as a weapon in narcotics cases has those two competing interests thoroughly off-kilter.

Director and co-writer (with Justin Haythe) Ric Roman Waugh invites us to sympathize with the fate of naive suburban teen Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron). After he foolishly agrees to accept delivery of a shipment of illegal pills on behalf of a friend, Jason is promptly busted and faces a compulsory 10 years behind bars.

The only path to a lesser doom is to testify successfully against others, something Jason's so-called pal is already doing to him. But, since Jason has no real involvement in the world of drugs, he can only obtain mercy by entrapping people. Despite encouragement from his lawyer to pursue this option, with admirable fortitude, Jason refuses.

Jason's divorced and estranged father, John (Dwayne Johnson), however, is not ready to give in so easily. Guilt-ridden over his neglect of the lad, John struggles to come up with a solution to Jason's dilemma.

John's persistence eventually convinces Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), the federal attorney prosecuting Jason's case, to make a deal with him: If John can infiltrate a local narcotics cartel and garner sufficient evidence to convict its boss, a petty hood named Malik (Michael K. Williams), she'll reduce Jason's time.

John has already been given an introduction to Malik by one of the employees of his successful trucking business, ex-con Daniel James (Jon Bernthal).

Daniel's situation is almost as poignant as Jason's: Despite his past, he's a dedicated husband and father determined to make a fresh start through honest work. But, with Jason's prospects worsening rapidly—he's repeatedly beaten by his tougher fellow inmates—John successfully wears Daniel down, convincing him to revisit his former life long enough to make the connection with Malik.

John then uses his fleet of vehicles as a lure, pointing out to Malik the advantages they would offer in transporting large cargoes of illicit goods.

Waugh enhances the action that follows with continued human drama and social commentary. The latter element gives rise to some clunky dialogue, especially from Joanne. Yet the overall result is both suspenseful and morally rich.

The damaging effects of divorce, the ethical and physical courage displayed, respectively, by Jason and John, the moving spirit of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness between father and son—all add heft to what might otherwise have been an easily dismissed series of shootouts and car chases.

The film contains much stylized and some graphic violence, including gunplay and a beating, mature themes, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and considerable crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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