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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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James of the Marche: Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop! 
<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.


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