In “Snitch,” an action-drama film opening this weekend, veteran Latino actor Benjamin Bratt plays a ruthless cartel drug lord. He is portrayed differently from other movies to be a sophisticated villain with a human side in the film.
Here’s the synopsis of the film:
In the fast-paced action thriller “Snitch,” Dwayne Johnson stars as a father whose teenage son is wrongly accused of a drug distribution crime and is looking at a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years. Desperate and determined to rescue his son at all costs, he makes a deal with the U.S. attorney to work as an undercover informant and infiltrate a drug cartel on a dangerous mission -- risking everything, including his family and his own life.
Latino-Review had a chance to speak with this well-respected actor about his character in the movie and working with director Ric Roman Waugh. We go into depth about his authenticity of his character.
“Snitch” opens everywhere in theaters today.
Latino-Review: Could you go ahead and tell us about the character you play in the movie “Snitch?”
Benjamin Bratt: I play a character named Juan Carlos who is also known as “El Topo.” He is the leader of the cartel. He’s the guy on the top of the food chain. He is very successful and a very savvy businessman. He runs a million dollar criminal enterprise. The one thing that the director Ric Waugh was really intend on was that we tell an authentic story. The character I play can be described as a villain in this film. Ultimately, he got a lot more dimension than that. This guy got a job to do.
What I’m intrigued by playing someone like this, as the guy on top of the pile, he has an eerie and deadly confidence as who everything behind him to attack with every avenue he wants to pursue. He’s an ex-military Special Forces guy. He got billions of dollars behind him. He got army of guys who are all armed. There’s some kind of eerie calm that comes with a person like that. He can make or break your life.
So it’s fun to step into shoes like that to oppose someone who is physically imposing to himself like Dwayne Johnson.
Latino-Review: Ric is very known for his research to make a movie as authentic as possible. Did you have to go above and beyond for research to play your character?
Benjamin Bratt: Ric and I have a long history together. We came up together in the business. He was a stuntman on a show that I did back in the 80s. His father, the great Freddie Waugh, was the stunt coordinator on the show. So we came full circle with him to this point and add a new dynamic to our new friendship.
The guy knows film inside and out on a movie set. He practically grew up on a movie set. He’s so technologically skilled and knowledgeable. I really appreciate him on upping the emotional stakes on a typical action genre film. He adds these multiple dimensionality to all these characters, including the one I play. A character like the one I play is typically cast as one-dimensional cartoon.
He humanizes everyone for a film. The audience will connect to the characters on some level by making them fathers. The question really is, mainly for the protagonist, is “to what extent will you go and put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation to help or protect your child?”
And each character, including my own at some point, will need to answer the question based on a similar situation.
Latino-Review: Is your character also a father like the main two other characters?
Benjamin Bratt: He is [a father]. It is subtlety dawn in comparison to at the end of the film. It’s a bit of a subtle surprise. There’s a link between Dwayne’s character at the center of the film and a supporting player, played by Jon Bernthal, with his relationship with his son. And then there is El Topo’s relationship with his little boy. It allows you as a member of the audience not to just get turn on by the action of the film, but to be reminded that these are all human beings.
There are certain times when you want to go into certain films and you want that kind of one-dimensionality from a cartoon. This movie ain’t that. There are aspects to that film that people will really like in the film, which we will succeed on that level. But, the film will be elevated on a certain level to make it more enjoyable. And it’s particular for people who just don’t go in just for action. Ric just humanizes everyone as a director and as an author. He lifts the emotional stakes on everyone who is watching.
Latino-Review: There are a lot of different types of Hispanic drug lords portrayed in Hollywood. How is “El Topo” played differently from the other characters?
Benjamin Bratt: Some of the research that Ric showed me quickly threw away any typical idea of what a cartel leader would look like and how they’ve been portrayed in the past. What’s gone is that five o’clock shadow, gold chains and the rowdy trucks. The reality is there big financial stakes involved in this criminal enterprise. It’s a very sophisticated run enterprise. Don’t kid yourself cause it’s a very dangerous circle of people that you will be interacting with.
My character is no different. But, what makes him so successful and so sophisticated is they combined all kinds of different training. Our cartel is not based on any particular cartel. My guy, the character I played, is not like any real cartel leaders. He’s a former ex-military. He’s been specially trained with all these weaponry. He’s being a soldier. He’s a soldier who reads the New York Times, especially with the stock market. He is particularly savvy and a man of mode. He’s a contemporary guy who’s clued into the global net like anyone else. He’s really on top of his game. He packs the 0.50 caliber cannon in the back of his truck. Make no mistake—he’s a guy with an agenda and a business to run, but he also has firepower and killer attitude to back it up.
Latino-Review: Were you trained for the weapon and were any action scenes difficult for yourself?
Benjamin Bratt: As an actor, I have played a soldier, a law enforcement officer and a criminal in the past. I have a lot of training with real soldiers and police officers. It’s kind of like riding a bike.
Latino-Review: That’s all the question I have, I wish you good luck with the film.
Benjamin Bratt: I appreciate that. Thanks.