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Traffik (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 8, 2020


TRAFFIK (2018)

Starring Paula Patton, Omar Epps, Laz Alonso, Roselyn Sanchez, Missi Pyle, Luke Goss, Dawn Olivieri, William Fichtner, Claude Duhamel, Lorin McCraley, Scott Anthony Leet, Claude Duhamel, Lorin McCraley, Stacey Arwen Raab, Lisa Hitchcock Kallstrom, September D’Angelo, William W. Barbour, Adrian Bustamante and Lindsay Vanina.

Screenplay by Deon Taylor.

Directed by Deon Taylor.

Distributed by Lions Gate. 96 minutes. Rated R.

In the old days, they used to make exploitation films which claimed to be decrying the very thing they were gleefully exploiting – for example, such cult classics as Reefer Madness, Sex Madness, Cocaine Fiends, etc.

As Reefer Madness put it: “An unspeakable scourge. The real public enemy number one!” So, let’s shine a light on the seedy, sexy side of it.

Truth is, filmmakers never stopped doing this, they just got better at hiding their intentions.

Take Traffik. (No, I don’t quite get the point of the oddball stylized misspelling of the title, either. It made a little more sense a decade ago when that same misspelled title was used on another film with a Soviet storyline.)

Traffik is meant to be an exposé on the evil world of human sex trafficking. Thing is, though, it spends so much time on the violence, degradation and sexual torture of the situation that it almost feels like they are enjoying the storyline situation just a bit too much. Or at least hoping that the audience will.

And while it is in no way as knowingly campy as the earlier mentioned exploitation films, it still aims to exploit. Which is not necessarily a bad thing; there is a long history of very good exploitation films. But let’s call it what it is. Traffik is a pretty good action thriller which is trolling in some murky waters. It’s trying to disapprove of human trafficking at the same time as it is titillating its audience with the same exact thing.

Paula Patton plays Brea, a serious investigative journalist in a new media world that is built for speed. She loses her latest story – and perhaps her job – after working on it for months. Her editor got tired of waiting for her to cover all the bases and assigned the article to a co-worker who would not get as deeply into the story but could turn it over quickly.

Distraught about the turn in her career, Brea agrees to have a romantic getaway with her supportive boyfriend John (Omar Epps). Their best friends, Darren (Laz Alonso) a sports agent and his wife Malia (Roselyn Sanchez) offers them a modern mansion deep in the woods, where John plans on popping the question to Brea. Then Darren and Malia will come to celebrate with them.

Unfortunately, at a truck stop on the way to the secluded mansion, Brea runs into a drug-addicted-looking woman with a bunch of tough bikers. The woman seems to be trying to tell Brea something, and slips a cell phone in her pocket. In the meantime, Brea and John run afoul of the gang of bikers.

(Not an important plot point, but there is also a running discussion in this segment in which at least three different characters had no idea what flavor the blue slurpees in local convenience stores were – beyond just “blue.” To ease the characters’ minds – and that of writer Deon Taylor – blue slushies are usually either blue raspberry or simply blueberry.)

Anyway, that night, the couple is enjoying their romantic getaway when Darren and Malia show up early. That saps the romance a bit, and it gets even less important when Brea finds the phone. They are able to break the password code (from an honestly needlessly vague hint by the woman at the rest stop). Inside, they find lots of pictures of women who seem to be getting sold for sex.

Then things really spin out of control when the woman from the truck stop shows up at their place looking for the phone, with all the tough human-trafficking bikers waiting out in the darkness.

Can the four of them survive in a glass house in the middle of nowhere with a whole bunch of homicidal criminals surrounding them? Can they find and save the women being held captive? Can they trust the local law enforcement when the Sheriff is played by Missi Pyle? Can they find even more short, torn and revealing outfits to dress Paula Patton in as she fights for her life and freedom?

So, stay away from rural truck stops and glass mansions deep in the woods. Remember the wise words of Reefer Madness.

“Failing this, the next tragedy may be that of your daughter’s… or your son’s… or yours… or yours…. Or yours!”

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: July 17, 2018.

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