Snitch Ending, Explained: Does the FBI Catch El-Topo and Gang?

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, ‘Snitch’ is a 2013 crime-thriller film that draws attention to the inequalities and discrepancies in the criminal justice system, specifically how mandatory minimum terms may lead to disproportionately severe penalties for low-level crimes. It’s not your standard Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson action movie. Instead, it explores weightier topics like justice, family, and atonement. ‘Snitch’ is a riveting look at the legal system and how far a parent would go for the sake of his family.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jon Bernthal, Rafi Gavron, Barry Pepper, Melina Kanakaredes, and Benjamin Bratt, this 2013 movie puts the audience in the shoes of John Matthews, who decides to go undercover in the clandestine world of drug trafficking to lower his son’s jail time. John’s path is one of redemption as he attempts to repair his broken relationship with his kid and learn from his mistakes. If you’re curious to see what dangers John and his family face in this uncharted territory, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Snitch.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

Snitch Plot Synopsis

America has been dealing with drug addiction for half a century. While drugs are a goldmine of opportunity for many, it has ruined the life of countless people and those around them. This could have been said the same for John Matthews if things hadn’t turned out differently. John Matthews is a hard-working and self-employed businessman running his own construction company. John also shares a son, Jason, with his ex-wife, Sylvie (Melina Kanakaredes). John and Jason (Rafi Gavron) aren’t really on talking terms and very rarely see each other. Despite their strained relationship, John works tirelessly to ensure Sylvie and Jason are well cared for. One fateful day, John received a call from Sylvie that would change everything. She informs John that the DEA has arrested their son, Jason, for possessing illicit drugs. 

Jason vehemently protested his innocence, claiming he was holding the package as a favor for a friend who promised him money. Unfortunately, Jason and his friend Craig were charged under the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. These laws were designed to target drug traffickers and encourage them to cooperate with authorities in exchange for reduced jail time. Jason applied for bail but was denied and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. John and Sylvie try to convince Jason to tell the authorities everything he knows, but the latter denies knowing anything. John pulls some strings and secures an appointment with Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), a high-level United States attorney. Joanne informs John that there’s nothing to be done unless Jason helps them make an arrest.  

John decides to take the matter into his own hands and begins investigating. Since John has employed many ex-cons for his construction business, he first decides to scratch that line. He meets with Daniel James (Jon Bernthal) and requests him to provide him an audience with his old associate in return for $20,000. Daniel was an ex-convict and had been trying to get his life around. His family was already struggling financially, and he decided to help. James takes him to meet his old associate, Malik.

James used to work for Malik but later got out to provide a safe and better future for his wife and son. John meets Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams) and reveals to him that he can use his construction business as a front to transport his drugs. John lies about his struggling finances to lure Malik and demands 15% of the cut. Malik agrees but demands John and James must drive the first truck themselves. Unbeknownst to James and Malik, John has been recording the entire conversation. John meets with Joanne and provides her with the recording to implicate Malik. Kagan, in return, assures to decrease Jason’s jail time. 

John and James deliver the truck. However, they’re ambushed by the rival gang. Malik’s boss, El Topo ( Benjamin Bratt), praises John’s fortitude and plans to hire his services again. Malik, on the other hand, for safety concerns, changed the location of the meeting. Unfortunately, James began developing doubts about John’s involvement. However, John assures him he has no other agenda except financial gain. James and John drive to the meeting point to collect their cut. DEA has already surrounded the place but decides not to intercept Malik in hopes of catching a much bigger fish. Meanwhile, John is anxious, fearing Jason might have to spend ten years in prison. Cooper (Barry Pepper) and Joanne advise John to be patient and do exactly what they say for the sake of his son.

Snitch Ending: Does the FBI Catch El-Topo and Gang?

James was transferred to the ER after being assaulted in prison. Realizing Jason hasn’t long, John decides to expedite his plan. James, too, learns of his scheme and breaks off contact with John to protect his loved ones. Malik barges into John’s house and takes him to meet his boss, El Topo, a drug-trafficking business giant who sits on DEA’s most-wanted list. El Topo asks him to make another run and promises to pay him $ 250,000 in return. However, he demands that John make this trip alone. John worries about his family’s safety but is assured by Joanne and Cooper that there’s no way El-Topo and the men can trace Jason back to him. John decides to make the trip but, in exchange, demands Keagan to acquit his son on all the federal charges. Cooper also informs him about the associated risks, but John plans to deal with the devil for his son’s sake.

Meanwhile, James’ wife also leaves him after finding a packet full of money in their house. John meets with James and asks for help to save his son. John gets on the road, with the federal government constantly tracking his every move. John ditches DEA and leaves for the border in a different truck. Unfortunately, the cartel learns about John’s real agenda and dispatches their hitmen to kill him and retrieve the money.

On the other hand, James barges into Malik’s safehouse and shoots him. However, before dying, Malik provides him with El-Topo’s phone number. John contacts Cooper and provides him with El-Topo’s number. Cooper reveals to him that the cartel has discovered his connections to Jason. John worries about his son, but Cooper assures him that he has moved Jason into protective custody. As for El-Topo, DEA agents chase and apprehend him on the highway. On the other hand, John’s truck flips over, but the DEA agents save him. DEA takes possession of the cartel’s money, and Keagan, as promised, acquits Jason on all charges, making him a free man. James, on the other hand, is awarded $100K as a reward for helping to take down El-Topo and his drug trafficking racket. 

What are Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws?

In ‘Snitch,’ the federal mandatory minimum sentence regulations are a major story point that exemplifies the unfairness of the criminal justice system. These laws are a body of legislation that mandates that courts impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain federal offenses. Factors such as drug kind, amount, criminal record, and weapon usage may all affect sentencing recommendations. Judges have very limited leeway in determining sentences when these statutes are in effect.

We see Jason, John’s son, being arrested and taken to prison for possessing drugs. After being found guilty, he was sentenced to ten years in federal jail due to the amount of narcotics involved. His only way out was to snitch on others. Jason informed the cops about Craig, who denies all the charges. Since the DEA wasn’t able to make any arrests, their hands were tied. It was then John took it upon himself and gathered evidence that later helped the DEA arrest El-Topo. Through its portrayal of Jason’s plight and John’s attempts to get his son’s punishment reduced, the film encourages audiences to question the justice and efficacy of such laws. It highlights how required minimums can lead to harsh punishments that ignore the specifics of each case.

Why El-Topo Didn’t Want to Wire the Money Digitally?

El-Topo was impressed with John’s gut after he managed to escape with the truck without catching a single bullet. After learning that John runs a successful and respected construction business, he decides to hire him again. El Topo asks John to take a trip to the other side of the border with a truck full of cash. Since new financial laws and security measures were introduced, it has become almost impossible for traffickers to wire their money digitally.

El Topo decides to hire John for the Job. Malik also pays a visit to John’s house to make him understand that he’s not untouchable and that any mistake on his part will cost him the life of his family. Law enforcement organizations can easily track the origin of digital transactions by looking at the digital “footprints” left behind. This might lead to the cartel’s financial operations being exposed, which might result in their arrest. In ‘Snitch,’ the cartel works covertly, so minimizing digital transactions may be one strategy to reduce exposure to authorities’ surveillance efforts.

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