Traffic (2000) (R)













"Traffic" is a tale of drugs. People who want drugs, people who hate drugs, people who are forced into the world of drugs and have to swim or drown. It's not a very flattering tale but it's one that needs to be told.
"Traffic" is divided up into three main color schemes: yellow, blue, and natural. The yellow color scheme, shot grainy and stylized is for Mexico, where the drugs are coming from. The blue color scheme is used for Chicago were a certain judge is advocating the war on drugs. And the natural color scheme is used for everything else, mainly San Diego.
There are a few story arcs that intertwine and interweave throughout "Traffic". There's the judge who thinks that drugs are the bane of humanity. There's the wife of a man who get convicted of drug running. There's the judge's daughter who is quickly becoming an addict. There's two DEA agents who are investigating the drug activity in California.  And then there's the two cops in Mexico who are trying to get a handle around things.
The movie begins with the two cops in Mexico who bust a couple of drivers that are carrying illegal drugs. These cops are quickly pulled over and the drugs and criminals are confiscated by a higher police power.
Then we flash over to Chicago where judge Bob Wakefield is hammering down on people who are evading the law. He's a good man, but he can't see beyond his own morals. He's blind to the fact that his daughter is slipping away into the world of drugs. He learns this fact when one of her friends overdoses and the rest of the group try to dump the body by a hospital and run. They quickly get pulled over by a policemen and then her father is taken into the picture. It's heavy with irony, the fact that his daughter is constantly high and that he is the United States's 'drug czar'.
The DEA agents have their hands full with a suspect drug dealer who agrees to turn on his boss. Too bad his boss is a very powerful man. Setback after setback line up and fall like dominos.
Then there's the wife who is trying to juggle the sudden loss of friends and the plummet of her finances. She's slowly loosing her mind, it doesn't help that she has a sleazy lawyer friend who is only on her side because he thinks that now that the drug dealing husband is gone, he has a shot with her.
But the most compelling story line is the two cops down in Mexico. This is where the action happens and where the ethical questions that are raised in "Traffic" begin.
What good is the war on drugs? Is it really doing anything at all? Would it be better just to leave it where it is?
Remember that "Traffic" was made in 2000, over a decade ago and still these questions having incredible relevance.
"Traffic" isn't preachy. In fact, it may have a different ending then you would expect.
The acting is good, great performances are given by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Torro, and Don Cheadle; but that's where it ends. Michael Douglas is particularly bland as Bob Wakefield, a character that should be filled with complexity and inner wrestling, but instead comes across as a man reciting lines for a role. But the worst acting comes from Erika Christensen as the judge's daughter, Caroline. She resembles the much made fun of Kristen Stewart's "acting" face when she's high, which is most of the movie. When she's sentimental and her character is supposed to be creating emotions, it falls flat on its face.
Steven Soderbergh directed "Traffic" and he won an Oscar for it, well deserved I think. Even though the movie isn't flawless and once did fall to cliches, it's still very impactful.
"Traffic" is dark and poetic. It reminded me a lot of "Crash" which is unfortunate because "Crash" was much better.

Score: 3 and half stars out of 4

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