on June 13, 2004
This is a frustrating film for many reasons. Firstly the schizophrenia of the plotlines is poorly done and distracting. It merely further hindered me from actually gaining any sort of emotional connection to the characters (and that's counting the headstart the dialogue had given).
The themes of the movie are so apparent that they become oppressive. A previous reviewer encapsulated the film with the phrase: Drugs R bad, and while I can appreciate a noble premise like this, the way Soderbergh badgers the audience with the futility of the "war on drugs" and the affect that drugs have on addicts is devoid of tact and feels contrived to the point of nausea.
The characters are not well-developed either. Their actions are completely obvious. While this is not usually a just complaint about a movie, the lack of intrigue in the plot, the often cheesy dialogue, and the general lack of subtlety makes for an obnoxiously assuming film. It comes across not only snobbish to the layperson, but boring to the average movie-goer.
This movie really drags. This is an in-escapable fact. There were too many trifling scenes in this movie.
But that's just how it rubbed me. Although, I can see how many a pseudo-intellectual film buff could trick himself into gushing about how thought-provoking and "original" this film was, I can also see how many critics and sincere film-goers would like it as well. The message is certainly an important point of discussion regardless of how you feel on the issue, and the conclusions leave much to be debated (although, not about the film)
My main point is this: Unless you're interested in grinding your way through a movie with a plot that can be summarized in the political/humanitarian issue of the film, it's not worth seeing. If you're interested in drug-related issues, do yourself a favor and simply walk, don't run to your nearest bookstore and sift through the myriad of books on the matter. Heck, why not (since you're online anyway) look through one of the lists here at Amazon.com?!
on February 18, 2002
"Traffic" has been heralded as a "daring" look at the War on Drugs. But it's only daring from the perspective of someone who thought the War on Drugs has been a resounding success. Frankly, to those who have been willing to make themselves familiar with the failures of the multi-trillion dollar campaign, the film covers nothing new and really could have been far more provocative. Not that it's a bad thing that the limited scope of the film shook up people who think inside a narrow box a bit. As a film on it's own, it deserves some praise as an entertaining, well-acted (especially from Del Toro) crime film. But make no mistake, this film has much broader aspirations, and that is where it fails. It is fair to compare it to the British mini-series that it's based on, "Traffik", which was produced 11 years earlier yet is far more insightful and relevant. That film has a broader scope-- it deals with the a third world opium farmer rather than a third world cop, for example--, the dialogue is sharper -- compare the Hollywood gushiness of Douglas's final speech to the powerful efficiency of the original's counterpart speech-- and it makes far more daring observations-- the original notes how America allies itself with Pakistani heroin traders so they can fight the Soviet Union, where as the remake has dialogue and plot points which completely exonerates the American government of such activity, which is, sadly, totally false. If you want to see a really want a daring film about the War on Drugs, skip "Traffic" and see "Traffik". Then, if you want to really have the tragedy and hypocrisy of War on Drugs laid out for you, read "Dark Alliance" by Gary Webb.
on January 22, 2002
after a lengthy discussion with a freind about this movie i thought id come and see what other people thought about the film.
i for one find i vastly overated...the only strong plot line being bencio del toro's...first off...the colored washes gimmicky, easy..and artsy for art sake not needed nor do they add anything to the film except to make you realise youre now watching "character x's" story line.
now the idea of catherine zeta jones rich suburban wife taking over her husbands business while not impossible is highly improbable and lends an air of unbelievabilty to that part of movie..but that pales in comparison to the problems with michael douglas and his story in the movie..
1. yeah ok got it even the drug czar can have a kid hooked on drugs..wow..shocking..
2. um ok so none of these super rich kids deals drugs they all travel to the ghetto to get it?..please..what world do these film makers live in find any high school in any neighborhood in america and you will find a kid that sells drugs..
3. ok now the "drug czar" needs to find his little girl..who he cant believe is on drugs..so he takes to the streets no gun no cop no nothing..again ridiculous..a judge that prominent doesnt know one cop in his state he can trust or one person to bring with him to navigate the dangers and could the national drug czar not think a gun might be needed?..or could he not get one?...totally unbelivable
4. it just flat out doesnt happen that way in 99.9% of the cases
you dont go from your first taste of a drug..crack..to the level she got to in the span of what?..a week...give it a 6 months then maybe...and the imagery of the evil black drug dealer sleeping with the poor white confused girl is beyond sickening and racist..what she didnt have anything to sell to get some cash before she became a hooker?..none of her friends could loan her 10 bucks...
5. michael douglas is just not a very good actor..and the boyfreinds little speech to him about blacks and whites and the drug trade was such an obvious " i know what you liberals are gonna say and here it is to cut you off at the knees" bit of dialouge its funny
ok enough ranting...im a big movie fan and after one too many people trying to tell me that this was such a classic i needed to vent a little : )
ok so i get it drugs are bad..gee thanks
on January 1, 2002
There are no characters worthy of our sympathy except the daughter. The script was lacking and had no real punch, just sordid tales of how people allow drugs to mess up their lives. This is a trit star vehicle and little more.
The movie is about three different drug stories that are somewhat linked to each other. The first is about the Federal Drug Czar and his career track ambition blinding him to both the futility of eradicating the harm illegal drugs cause in America, and to the boredom that leads his teenage daughter to prostitution to support her drug habit. The scenes in which the father looks for his daughter require a major suspension in belief. No one, especially a bureaucrat would troll the "mean streetsï¿½ as weï¿½re expected to believe he does.
The second story, filmed sufficiently differently to remind us weï¿½re now watching new characters, involves a drug dealer and his wife that was unaware of her husband's business until a snitch makes a deal and the husband is arrested. Then weï¿½re expected to believe that the pregnant wife wants to become part of the drug trade so that she can maintain her lifestyle.
Lastly there is the story of the drug trade south of the border in Tijuana. This is shot with another color filter and in subtitles. This is the best story in that it is much more likely and realistically done. The Mexicans see all US governmental agencies involved in drug interdiction as ï¿½tres letrasï¿½ or Three Letters as in DEA, FBI, CIA etc. Theyï¿½re all seen as equally ineffective.
The acting is generally good except for Michael Douglas. The movie is stylistic which makes it nice eye candy but otherwise it is insubstantial. We do not come away from this movie having learned anything whether of benefit or not. I saw nothing of groundbreaking note here. Itï¿½s a sad commentary when one finds oneself more interested in picking out the cameo actors than paying attention to the storyline.
If you have to see the movie, borrow it from a friend. Don't spend money on it. It's long and generally boring. It won't stay with you.
on August 24, 2001
I hate to pan this one, because this country desparately needs a scathing denouncement of the war on drugs that will bypass the politicians, and get into the mainstream consciousness. Unfortunately, Traffic isn't it. In a frantic effort to pack the entire tragic tapestry of the drug war into a two hour movie, Traffic accomplishes absolutely nothing. Most of the movie's content seems to be drawn from a collage of real life events over past years. I recall many actual news stories which are very similar to the plot points of of this movie. All of the drug war players are here. The junkie, the dealer, the cop, the corrupt officials, the honest but naive drug warriors. But the topic is so large, and the time so limited, they're like the chorus from a classical Greek play. They take the stage, deliver the lines which represent their point of view, and dutifully troop off. A long novel might have done justice to this story. But in a feature length movie, it's nothing more than cliched, inflammatory stereotypes and ham fisted preaching. In addition, the movie is intentionally shot in an off-color, jerking "point of view" style that's not much more graceful than the efforts of an amateur with a camcorder. I suppose this was meant to lend a tense "you are there" kind of feel. The only tension I felt was between my temples.
on August 19, 2001
Given the complexity of the world's illegal drug trade, "Traffic" is a trickle of activity concerning drug trafficking between Tijuana, Mexico and The United States. It depicts a very accessible and obvious ladder of good and evil underworld hierarchy that includes South American drug cartels, a reluctant government informant right out of "The Godfather", a United States drug czar who battles illegal global drug trade but can't stop it in his own home, and a Mexican drug task officer fighting corruption in his own ranks. In "Traffic", the distinction between good guys and bad guys is obvious with little depth of character aside from either fighting or distributing drugs. The token drug addict here is so 'high', she behaves like a relic from the 1960s psychedelic scene, "Far out man, I see colors!". The over-ridden action sequences are cliched drug smuggling bits of bullets and blow-ups less compelling than even an episode of TV's "Miami Vice". There is a moral right-wing quaintness to "Traffic" that suggests we confront illegal drug use one pathetic addict at a time. Where serious answers lie to escalating drug use in America, we get instead an all encompassing theme that 'drugs are bad' laden in melodramatic trifle more akin to Joe Friday's "Dragnet" than it is to Hollywood's big drug statement. After nearly 2 1/2 hours of this tedious action and morality, I needed a Tylenol.
on August 6, 2001
Ugh. Like most people who had a problem with this film, my biggest disappointment came from the entire American User/abuser part involving Douglas' character and the spoiled brats high on smack. I despise movies that only serve to rile people up for no good reason. Soderbergh used the oldest trick in the book: Make the white middle-aged guy with an exceptional daughter totally ... out by showing her being shot up with Heroin and then ... by a violent black man. How ... racist and insulting to black people can you be! Then there was the scene where the daughter's boyfriend gives his indignant dissertation on the state of the drug war to a Drug Czar! Huh? I would have slapped the ... of that kid! I found it most interesting also that Catherine Zeta Jones could become so well-versed in the conversion of high-impact cocaine into powder form in such a short time. Cheadle did a fairly good job as did del Toro. Douglas was lazy, Amy Irving was plastic, Steven Bauer has never done good work and Dennis Quaid should be doing infomercials. This was obviously another contrived, Hollywood liberal view of the drug world and why you should be skeptical of any movie involving Michael Douglas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Sheen, Robert Redford, James Brolin, etc. If you want to see a good movie about a real life drug dealer, go see "Blow". In my humble opinion, it's the best work Johnny Depp has ever done and I never felt preached to.
on July 23, 2001
Very long primer on the War on Drugs. It's long because director Steven Soderbergh feels he has to show us EVERYTHING. *Traffic* is three movies in one: the first -- and best -- plot strand involves the moral caginess of a certain Tijuana cop (Bernicio Del Toro) and the multiform levels of ambiguity within Mexican drug enforcement. Clearly, this story deserves fleshing out and deeper concentration -- it needs to be its own movie. But no. There are sops to conventionality that must be thrown to the teeming masses, e.g., the second and third plot strands involving DEA agents on the trail of La Jolla (!) kingpins Steven Bauer and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and a more unrelated story of a newly appointed drug "czar" (Michael Douglas) who learns what it's like to have the War on Drugs waged under one's own roof. The Michael Douglas story is straight out of the "After School Special" milieu: his daughter, with implausible speed, goes from a recreational user to a "crack whore". This is presented with as much banal melodrama as you might expect. The (not really) "bridging" story about the San Diego drug dealers and their DEA trackers comes from Hack Writer's Fantasyland: we're asked to believe that a wealthy, indolent, pregnant housewife (Zeta-Jones), who starts off by worrying about the cholesterol level in her duck-salad, becomes within a few short months Drug-Dealing Catherine the Great of La Jolla, dressed in Prada (accessories by Fendi), toting dolls made entirely of cocaine across the border, ordering Mexican drug cartel bosses around as if they were just so many gardeners or other sorts of hired help that she, as a La Jolla nouveau richie, is accustomed to dealing with. (I live in San Diego and know whereof I speak. By the way, the notion of drug dealers in La Jolla is pretty funny for any San Diegan. Rancho Santa Fe . . . maybe. But LA JOLLA?) Meanwhile, the pair of DEA agents (Don Cheadle and Luiz Guzman) and the informant they're protecting (the always fun-to-watch Miguel Ferrer) provide some chuckles, as well as some Hard Truths about the Futility of the War on Drugs. Soderbergh films each of his mini-movies in a separate color scheme: icy grays and blues for the Drug Czar, hazy sunlight and earthtones for the San Diego shenanigans, and a weird, faded-daguerrotype bright yellow for the Mexico scenes. This somewhat pretentious maneuver will probably be regarded as a fine use of visual interpretation. Despite *Traffic*'s many problems, its congested story threads, and hackneyed characterizations, the cast, at least, is game: very fine performances across the board makes this mess somewhat watchable.
on July 21, 2001
I can think of nothing less interesting than "Traffic." I rented the DVD expecting a film meritous of high praise. Instead, I got a good nap. I've seen traffic jams that were more interesting. As a whole, I thought the film was slow, uninspired, and trite. There was nothing new in this film. Like we didn't know that suburban white kids are smackheads, or that drug lords try to find legit fronts for their business, or that governments are the real drug trafficers. I was unimpressed by everything but the performances of Benecio Del Turro and Don Cheadle -- they're the reason I even bothered to give the film any stars at all. If you'd like to see an interesting drug movie, find "Requiem for a Dream." It didn't win any Oscars (though Ellen Burstyn was nominated and lost to Julia Roberts). It barely played in any theatres (due to the mpaa's refusal to rate the film). "Requiem" makes "Traffic" look like a Disney movie...or an Oscar winner. In my opinion, the latter is worse! If you haven't seen it, steer clear from "Traffic."
on July 7, 2001
I had read recently that members of the US Congress were making use of this movie to re-visit the policies of the War on Drugs. If our congressmen see these hackneyed themes as major revelations, that is indeed frightening.
A few years back there was mini-series on Masterpiece Theater that, I assume, was based on the same novel, as the stories were almost identical. A gentleman is appointed drug czar in the UK, just as he discovers that his daughter is an addict. A major businessman is found to be a drug king-pin, to the shock and dismay of his wife, who then goes into the business herself, and is even better at it. Yada, yada....Of course, Masterpiece, with it's way of presenting a story over several weeks, rather than a mere 147 minutes, was able to go into much greater depth, and develop some real characters. Besides which, the ideas presented were probably just a little newer (though not much) back in the eighties.
This movie version has far too much happening and far too many characters, so that the whole thing ends up rather flat. Indeed, had I not seen the mini-series I might not even have picked up on some of the many plots. The wife's (Catherine Zeta-Jones) entering into the drug trade on her own, was just barely covered. And a sub-plot about a business partner trying to move in on her when the husband was in prison, was so badly handled that you didn't even know it had happened until it was over.
It is the rare movie that can handle all the plots and characters that can be covered in a novel or mini-series. Instead, they should try to pare down the characters and themes, and then cover them in greater depth. As it was, the "extra touches" like filming all the Mexican scenes in a wavey, hot- yellow light did nothing to convince me that this was anymore artistic than your average drug heist movie. And the supposedly "new" questions it raised, were actually very old ones.