Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paula Patton, Omar Epps, Roselyn Sanchez, Laz Alonso, William Fichtner, Missi Pyle, Dawn Olivieri, Luke Goss
Written by: Deon Taylor
Directed by: Deon Taylor
MPAA Rating: R for violent and disturbing material, language throughout, some drug use and sexual content
Running Time: 96
Date: 04/20/2018

Traffik (2018)

1 Star (out of 4)

'Traffik' Violation

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Thought it may have had good intentions, this movie is ultimately ineffectual, unpleasant, and borderline offensive; it's a vicious, nasty little thriller that also tries to peddle serious messages.

In Traffik, Sacramento journalist Brea (Paula Patton) is scooped on a big story by a colleague — on her birthday. Fortunately, her boyfriend John (Omar Epps) has big plans. He has built her a classic car and has arranged for a romantic weekend in a secluded mansion owned by his friend Darren (Laz Alonso); there he hopes to propose to her. Unfortunately, on the way up, they are accosted by a gang of bikers, with a suspicious woman (Dawn Olivieri) in tow.

At the mansion, things are going great, but Darren unexpectedly shows up with his girlfriend (Roselyn Sanchez). Then, it's discovered that a mysterious phone has found its way into Brea's bag; it reveals an entire horrifying history of sex trafficking in the area. But before anything can be done, the traffickers show up at the door, wanting the phone back. And they will stop at nothing to protect their business.

First, Deon Taylor's Traffik involves characters and situations that don't resemble life; people behave in ways that are puzzling, if only to further the plot. (Brea's newspaper reporter job seems especially out of touch.) When the tension starts, characters begin making all the usual horror/thriller mistakes that are always so frustrating. In the end, the movie doesn't seem to care about any of them, at all, one way or the other.

The movie's villains are as generic as they come, with a sneering bald guy as the leader and several bearded biker thugs that are indistinguishable from one another; if a good guy dispatches one of them, it means nothing. Then, there's a "twist" that is as unsurprising as it is dumb.

Finally, like one of the so-called subgenre of "torture-porn," it comes close to reveling in the brutal treatment of women; images of women in skimpy clothing covered in grime and blood walk a fine line between alluring and repulsive. Finally, the movie closes with handful of titles with factoids about human trafficking, as if to distance itself from, and rise above, the vile stuff it has just shown for entertainment purposes.

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