UK Release Date: 16th July 2018
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Deon Taylor
Writer: Deon Taylor
Starring: Paula Patton, Omar Epps, Laz Alonso, Roselyn Sanchez, Luke Goss, Missi Pyle, Dawn Olivieri, William Fichtner
Synopsis: When her romantic getaway goes sour, a journalist uncovers a human trafficking ring and finds herself in the crosshairs of the brutal ringleaders of that criminal enterprise.
On the special features that grace the DVD release of Traffik, writer-director Deon Taylor says a lot of very earnest, very laudable things about wanting to spotlight the real issue of sex trafficking with his new film. The movie itself ends with a declaration of the shocking number of women who fall victim to this particularly heinous crime every year. This is clearly a film with an agenda, hoping to raise awareness of something that often goes under-reported. With all of that said, though, Traffik feels like a rather cheap, generic movie that doesn’t do justice to the subject matter.
Brea (Paula Patton) is an investigative journalist fired by her boss (William Fichtner) when she turns in a story incredibly slowly. Her boyfriend John (Omar Epps), however, has organised a romantic getaway to a secluded home owned by his sport agent friend Darren (Laz Alonso). Brea encounters a dishevelled, scared woman (Dawn Olivieri) at a fuel stop along the way and, when they arrive at the house, it turns out the girl has left a smartphone in her bag, revealing she is a victim of a trafficking ring. Predictably, the woman and her psychotic boss (Luke Goss) turn up and demand that Brea and John return the missing phone.
What follows is a home invasion thriller that lacks the silly horror movie references of Strangers: Prey at Night or the surprising tension of Breaking In. Despite its pretensions towards making an important point about trafficking, much of its runtime has it feeling like a blandly conventional take on the home invasion movie. There’s nothing interesting, nothing new and no real sense of terror to anything that happens, despite Luke Goss’s impressively sinister bad guy. He has come a long way since Bros.
Traffik just seems misguided in the way it approaches its material. There are interesting moments – the eventual ringleader of the gang says they are “just part of a system that already exists”, when challenged on their morality – but these are too few and far between. The hard-edged material is dealt with in an uncertain manner, and the evocation of Nina Simone singing ‘Strange Fruit’ on the soundtrack feels rather out of place in connection with this material. The connection being drawn is clear, but the movie never quite justifies such an impactful use of music.
The issue here is that Taylor wants to have his cake and eat it with this film. He’s trying to make an important point, but he’s also trying to make a commercial thriller that will allow that point to be seen by more people. As a result, this is neither an unflinching look at a real issue, or a simplistically entertaining blast of exploitation madness. Instead, it’s a thriller with an identity crisis that is never able to meet its potential for either seriousness or silliness.
A couple of pretty bland featurettes looking at the making of the film and its visual style.
Pop or Poop?
Committed performances and a laudable notion of raising awareness of a real issue are not enough to rescue Traffik from falling down the rabbit hole of forgettable straight to DVD/VOD thrillers. It simply doesn’t have the courage of its convictions and so fails to embrace either its serious side, or its trash potential.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Traffik is available on DVD and VOD in the UK now courtesy of Lionsgate.