During the 95 minutes of undemanding viewing you'll spend with this film on an upcoming Saturday night, you'll easily pretend that the lone "good guy with a gun" is a thing that can actually combat evil, even when outnumbered, no matter how frightened the lone good guy may be, no matter how inexperienced he is with high levels of brutality on a day-to-day basis. You will not question this regular man's ability to participate in high-stress drug deals with career criminals or to drive a big rig under duress at high speeds. Nor will you wonder about a novice marksman's ability to fire a shotgun, one-handed, at the bad guys and take them out. None of this will cross your mind. You will simply cheer on The Rock as he does whatever it takes to clear his son's good name and get the boy out of prison.
Backing up, The Rock is the biblically named John Matthews, whose 18-year-old kid (Rafi Gavron) agrees to accept a shipment of Ecstasy at the family home, cajoled into doing so by his best friend. Falsely implicated in the plan to sell the drugs, the teenager is locked up and facing a minimum sentence of ten years, possibly more thanks to harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws. He's innocent of everything except idiocy, so when Dad steps in to work undercover with the DEA and an opportunistic politician (Susan Sarandon, dripping with vote-grubbing insincerity) in exchange for a reduced sentence, it seems like exactly what any concerned father would do. He enlists an ex-con (Jon Bernthal, The Walking Dead) for help and an introduction to the world of drug-trafficking thugs and their assault weapons.
As deals are broken and situations descend into chaos, as the lone good guy becomes involved with the leader of the cartel (Benjamin Bratt, who seems to be having a great Scarface-y time of it), unraveling to the point where he's in too deep, Matthews is forced to go get his first gun (thanks, breezy background check!). "I'm not going to let either side dictate our fates," he says. And you believe him.
Why? Because he's The Rock, that's why; he gets to have it both ways. It's right there in his dual name. He's both Rock and Dwayne, both tough guy and vulnerable everyman. You never have to worry that this stern-faced action drama will burden itself with too many messages about the futility or stupidity of the United States' war on drugs, one that privileges child rapists over non-violent drug offenders (if memory serves we're treated to approximately two, and they fly by). This is a drug-themed vehicle for The Rock, not vice versa. When justice is served you're allowed to walk away and forget you ever saw it. It's Faster is Doom is The Tooth Fairy is Get Smart is The Scorpion King, high-concept boxes he climbs into, popping out when the action cranks up.
That he fits neatly into all of those boxes, maintaining an unprecedented balancing act as this moment's favorite charming action brute who can also sell family comedy (just ask John Cena to try it, see how far you get), is a testament to both his malleability and his blandness. But he's good at it, really good. So he wins. And you don't exactly lose.