Directed and written by Deon Taylor, Traffik is a 2018 thriller film that centers on a group of gleeful friends in Brea (Paula Patton), John (Omar Epps), Malia (Roselyn Sanchez) and Darren (Laz Alonso) who are caught up in a huge life-threatening mess. An assemblage of dangerous bikers involved in illegal activity strike terror at a countryside residence where they are staying and thus they have to work in unison to quell the impending danger.
First off, considering her stature in pop culture, I would be straight out lying if I told you that I have been a big fan of Paula Patton; I mean, she has the looks and all but all the same, she doesn’t even come close to my top 50 Hollywood actresses, whether past or present. It’s not like I don’t like her as a person but because I can’t quite spot any of her projects that I can gush over and say “that’s what I need in an actress”. Nonetheless, having watched this film I ought to re-evaluate my assessment of her; she is extraordinary here. She plays Brea, a journalist who is struggling to keep her content relevant and fight for it in an environment that doesn’t necessarily appreciate her efforts, particularly her boss Mr. Waynewright (William Fichtner); a testament of this is when Brea confronts her boss concerning her stolen work. In order to deal with this prejudice, she needs a support system to give her a shoulder to lean on that is where her friends and John, her fiancé, come into the picture. One of them in particular in Darren, played by Laz Alonso, was one I found most inspiring of all of them; he is an outright comedic powerhouse, churning out jokes inappropriately which I got the hang of but at the same time, he gets serious when it’s all about his business and when you try to get in between him and the latter.
In as much as the plot was relatively progressive by the time I was well into the 1st Act, there are certain things that happened, at that timeframe, which had no connection to what the ‘thriller’ aspect that the film is all about. There is a tone it set right from minute one that made it feel more like a drama comedy-ish with some romance which threw me off the movie’s scent a little but credit to my patience, I was able to regain my interest as the photoplay gradually turns into what it’s supposed to be as you get into the 2nd and 3rd Act. Additionally, the movie, in spite of its low $ 4 million budget, does go out of its way to make the most out of its resources to do the best it can to leave you somewhat satisfied once the end credits roll; I was sold on the relatively eerie stakes at hand as well as the manner in which tension builds up at distinct points in the film.
Human trafficking is one of if not the most inhumane trades that is still being exercised in today’s world. As is quite rightly pointed out before the credits, hundreds of thousands of women, particularly in the United States, are being subjected to this act of utter cruelty and this film addresses this scourge in a manner I seldom see on-screen these days. I got a clear and gritty perspective on the issue as the movie was nearing its home run where Paula Patton’s character is being pulled into the container of a large truck and in her wake, there were a bunch of hurt and destitute young women with blood on their clothes and bodies. This scene had a lot of symbolism to it and it hit me hard.
As far as the banes are concerned, there is quite a number but the most noticeable are characterization and dialogue. I’d give Brea a free pass because she gets more screen-time than the rest hence her character is more fleshed out but I can’t do the same to Malia and even John, her boyfriend. Moreover, the motion-picture does go way in over its head with that horror-film inspired score that seemed never-ending; for me, it was quite unnecessary and thus I am calling out Deon Taylor, the director, on this aspect which he shouldn’t have green-lit in post-production.
To conclude, despite the fact that Traffik does take a while to pick up on what it’s about, it does serve its purpose notwithstanding. Leaving its faults aside, the cinematography was good; captured all the moments as they should have been and the production design, specifically where the gritty events take place in the final third of this Summit Entertainment project, was commendable. That said, I can’t be oblivious to the fact that the cine is a tale of two halves as I pointed out in the review and hence I am confident the below grade is befitting, wouldn’t you agree?