Snitch is a film that tells an incredible story of a dad who infiltrates the underworld of drug dealers as part of his deal with courts to release his son. But, was the movie based on the true story?
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Snitch is a 2013 thriller that is currently finding a new lease of life after being added to Netflix in the US on September 1, 2023, with the film captivating viewers and earning itself a spot on the streaming service’s Top 10 movies list.
Watch the preview of Snitch’s plot
Snitch follows Johnson’s character, John Matthews, the owner of a construction company whose estranged son, Jason, lands himself in jail after being framed for dealing drugs.
Jason may face at least 10 or 30 years behind bars if he is convicted.
In a desperate attempt to reduce his son’s sentence, John makes a deal with the opportunistic District Attorney and vows to infiltrate the world of drug trafficking and become an informant.
John recruits an unwitting ex-con named Daniel James, (Jon Bernthal), who he hopes can be his entry into the criminal world where any wrong step could mean his death.
Snitch was based off a real story.
Snitch was based on an actual story.
The real-life story of James Settembrino was the inspiration for the film. In 1992, his son Joey faced similar circumstances to those shown in it when he was charged with drug trafficking.
James and Joey’s story was picked up by the PBS documentary series Frontline Snitch was the title of the episode which focused on these characters.
As the Dwayne Johnston-starrer is an action thriller, it does add some dramatic tension and excitement to the film.
In the film, John Matthews’ time with the cartel ends with a violent car chase after his status as an informant is revealed. After he makes it safely to the safety of his family, Matthews’ son is freed and they are placed in witness protection.
In reality, James Settembrino’s efforts to free his son were actually unsuccessful as his proposed deal with the prosecutor collapsed, leaving Joey at the mercy of the strict minimum sentencing laws which saw him receive a 10-year prison sentence.
James Settembrino discusses his real-life experiences
James Settembrino, real James Settembrino, spoke to PBS Frontline about some of the incidents that inspired Snitch.
“I’ll never forget that night when I got that first telephone call as he was in jail for the first evening,” he said. “All he said was, ‘I’m here, get me out, I’ll never be able to do 10 years,’ and broke down for the first time and the phone went dead. That’s all he said to me. I’ll never forget that.”
Following his son’s arrest, James was contacted by the government who revealed he could help reduce Joey’s sentence if he assisted them and worked as an informant.
“I tried to find people who were dealing in drugs by finding people who were using drugs,” he explained. “And once I found someone who was using drugs, then naturally it wasn’t very hard to find out … where they were getting the drugs from.”
“But I guess I’ve got a symbol on me that says I’m not a drug user, so it was very, very difficult. I was not allowed to buy anything. I never was able to make a single sale, even for $10 worth of drugs, let alone $10,000.”
Eventually, James’s efforts to reduce his son’s sentence collapsed as the prosecutor on the case, James Boma, voided the deal with Settembrino saying: “Boma got on the phone and he just started screaming at me.
“He said, ‘The deal is off, the deal is off. You got nothing, you’re not doing a thing, you’re not getting any help and I don’t care if your son stays in jail for 20 years, we got no deal. Finished.’ And he hung up the phone on me.”
Snitch Streaming is available Netflix is now available in the US.