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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.19%
Average: 12.21%
Pretty Bad: 10.8%
Total Crap: 6.57%

13 reviews, 135 user ratings

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by Jason Whyte

"Soderbergh. At It Again."
5 stars

One would think that after director Steven Soderbergh made a hit out of "Erin Brockovich" that he would fade either into obscurity for a few years on a "break", or make an action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here is a man who came out into the limelight with "Sex, Lies and Videotape" in 1989, then moved onto "Kafka" a few years later, and then made the wonderful "King of the Hill," about a child growing up in the depression. And after a few other movies and into relative obscurity, Soderbergh blasted back in the past three years with four films. In 1998, his "Out of Sight" with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, was a critical success but a box office flop, and I loved it. Then along came Terence Stamp as a cockney gangster in "The Limey," a small indie classic that made no money. And then "Erin Brockovich" a great Julia Roberts vechile, was financially successful and recieved acclaim for both Roberts as well as Soderbergh.

And now the hard-working director has towered over all of them in "Traffic," a film that takes a hard look at the war on drugs in North America. And what's so astonishing about this picture is all the sides it portrays, all of the stories that meld together in themes and ideas of some lives destroyed, some saved from this underground. More than one viewing is required to understand all of the characters and their motives. And there are so many parallels here that I am surprised that 147 minutes is the length of this movie.

All the stories revolve around the dealing of, the battling of, the consumption of, and the behind the scenes actions inolving drugs. The key players include a Ohio judge Robert Wakerfield (Michael Douglas), who has recently been appointed by the White House to become the country's drug czar. His daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) is an addict to crack cocaine behind his back and her mother Barbara (Amy Irving). There's a Mexican policeman Javier Rodriequez (Benicio Del Toro) who get caught up in the Mexican Army and their quest to destroy drug cartels, and winds up getting in over his head. There's a lonely housewife named Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose husband is a drug lord who gets put in jail and is left to fend for herself. And there's also a pair of DEA Agents (Don Cheadle and Luiz Guzman) who are keeping an eye on Helena.

All of the stories connect and disconnect in a way. They do and they don't. The Mexican scenes connect partially with the San Diego goings-on, and then they will be completely independent, for example. And in a unique way, Soderbergh paints each story and location with a different brush. All the mexican scenes are shot in a grainy, sepia 16mm tone, where not much is in color, more of a grungy, yellowish tone. The scenes with Robert and his quest in Ohio are in a metallic blue tinge that gives a cold, washed-out feeling. And in the San Diego scenes, the picture is clear yet oversaturated and a little brighter than one would see. These visual techniques are outstanding (Soderbergh served as his own cinematographer); add to the fact he hardly ever used a tripod, steadicam or dolly shot at all in the film, most of this is shot hand-held but done flawlessly.

The visual technique works as a counterpart to the reality that Soderbergh sees. This film feels real and focused, and his camera acts as a voyeur into the hardships of its characters. In one of the strongest scenes in the film, Robert discovers his daughter on drugs, and she is so drugged out that all she can muster is "Fuck you. Fuck you!" to her father. Scenes like these are powerful in the way that the origin of drug trafficking can impact anyone in unthinkable ways.

There are so many good performances here, and I will name a few of the best: Michael Douglas is terrific as Robert, who portrays a sometimes desperate individual who is trying to put an end to the drug situation, and to help his daughter. Benicio Del Toro is stunning as Javier, who is caught between two seperate powers in Mexico; his best scene comes with a simple question about baseball. Rounding out the top performances is Erika Christensen, whose portrayl of Caroline the addicted daughter is shattering and yet believeable. Also excellent is Zeta-Jones as a fighting housewife, Topher Grace as Caroline's drug-happy boyfriend, Dennis Quaid as a associate that Helena turns to, and cameos by Albert Finney, Benjamin Bratt, Salma Hayek and others.

"Traffic" is a force to be recokned with. It is a film that demands attention, an involving piece of work that clearly covers every aspect of what it wants to say. Soderbergh is at the top of his game with this film, and I think more and more viewers are starting to appreciate his way of making films. With his freedom of storytelling and visual approach, he has made "Traffic" into a memorable and rewatchable work.

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originally posted: 04/08/04 17:15:46
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell a sharp look at the drug scene told from different points of view 4 stars
6/22/14 Richard Brandt Among Benicio Del Toro's many virtues : He nailed the Mexican accent, which wasn't his own 4 stars
12/28/09 Dane Youssef The best film of 2000. And the best about the ripple effect of drugs ever made. 5 stars
8/26/09 yukers This movie was LAME and way too LONG!!! 1 stars
9/21/08 Samantha Pruitt amazing movie, totally intense! 5 stars
8/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
11/26/06 David Pollastrini really confusing if you don't pay attention 5 stars
6/26/06 MP Bartley Some annoying acting and occasional preachy tone hamper this fine thriller. 4 stars
12/12/05 sweetgrrl1972 By the end you don't care about any of the characters especially the poor rich kids. 1 stars
11/03/05 R.W.Welch Innovative cinematography and standout perf by Del Torro. 4 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands A brilliantly shot and edited epic. Also really entertaining. I heart Soderbergh. 5 stars
9/09/05 Indrid Cold A textbook example of how to address a complex subject with intelligence and style. 5 stars
6/01/05 jcjs fine stuff 5 stars
2/25/05 Gray I now jackass crack lovers who love this film 1 stars
1/02/05 Daveman A fantastic thriller, entertaining, affecting and compulsively rewatchable. 5 stars
9/26/04 Bucky Buckner Boone Benicio aside, this is too long, too unbelievable and too much CZJ overacting 3 stars
9/24/04 Naka Absolutely stunning from beginning to end. A true modern classic worthy of highest praise. 5 stars
5/03/04 Gobsmack A devastating, shudder-inducing rush. Worthy of the highest praise. B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T. 5 stars
4/17/04 ALBERT H. TAYLOR JR. I was engrossed in the movie from start to finish. 5 stars
4/15/04 gordon purcell Soderberg uses several filmstocks and looks to the themes, yet it's clear to follow! Smart! 5 stars
4/15/04 rojo Easy to get involved in this one, great acting. 5 stars
4/06/04 Agent Sands Powerful, realistic, & enjoyable with awesome cast, direction, camerawork, music, & script. 5 stars
6/16/03 rory excellent film.... well done 5 stars
3/05/03 Dr. Bitterpants Liked it 1st viewing, bitter taste 2nd. HATE cliche of poisoned room service - how Dragnet! 3 stars
2/05/03 spacecowboy man it painted a bleak picture for the future of the "war on drugs" 5 stars
11/15/02 Chiendog Amateurish tripe with more plot holes than a slice of swiss cheese. 1 stars
7/31/02 I Can't Swim Worth it only for Benicio, who gave the movie what little soul it had. Hey KMG, show me how 4 stars
7/05/02 KMG THIS MOVIE ROCKS HELL! If you disagree go fuck yourself! 5 stars
4/08/02 stoolie-bird just one of the most important films ever made 5 stars
4/04/02 Edfink Lombardo The most overrated film of the '90s...Some good acting aside, this film is a waste 2 stars
3/05/02 Jennifer Birkhead Michael Douglas best player by far; too bad his bride thinks her shit don't stink! 3 stars
3/05/02 Marcia Lartz I didn't even notice Benicio del Toro. Academy is off its rocker! 3 stars
3/02/02 Alan Smithee Only the mexican sub-plot is worth watching. Everything else is crap. 2 stars
2/22/02 Jeff boring as all hell 2 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Depressing. Some prime acting. 3 stars
2/20/02 srm realistic???? white suburban kids always buy drugs at inner city crack houses. yeah right 4 stars
1/22/02 Spyguy2 Del Toro kicked ass as the Mexican cop...very good, but I heard the original is better 4 stars
1/12/02 hd the worst movie i ever saw i didnt understand 1 stars
11/03/01 Andrew Carden A Very Good Movie With Great Sub Plots and Acting. 5 stars
10/04/01 Phoenix Del Toro is a weird looking guy, but he sure is a great actor. Excellent movie. 5 stars
8/19/01 LawHog24 The Mexico part (and DelToro) kicks all ass...the US part is a bad USA Networks flick. 3 stars
8/16/01 Dakamus I paid seven dollars to take a two hour nap in my local theater!?! Suck-ass movie! 1 stars
8/10/01 E-Funk Soderbergh helms this jumpy tale with a mastery foer the craft. Great film. 5 stars
8/02/01 G-Man Perfect. Very thought provoking. 5 stars
7/29/01 Jennifer Gaissert Del Toro was great, but the editing made me dizzy 4 stars
7/28/01 Steve Definitely overhyped/overrated. Not very exciting. Great documentary though. 4 stars
7/28/01 Adam I thought it was a little dull, seems like a mix of very deep and very shallow messages. 4 stars
7/21/01 Phil M. Afficianado The accolates are well deserved. 5 stars
7/20/01 skye over-rated. good flick. been done. 4 stars
7/18/01 svetlana a good message...but damn does it drag on and on 4 stars
7/03/01 TLsmooth Benicio saves this neverending shit-burger 3 stars
7/02/01 Jed overblown, overhyped Miami Vice crime saga. Soderbergh is a hack. 1 stars
6/30/01 Pop will eat itself loved it. although topher grace was fucking annoying. I kept waiting for M.D. to smack him 5 stars
6/22/01 Jim Renwick Over-rated 3 stars
6/20/01 Jake Del Toro only bright spot in this pretentious epic. Soder 1 stars
6/18/01 The Bomb 69 powerful is the best word to describe it 5 stars
6/06/01 Muad'Dib Probably should have taken Best Picture 5 stars
6/05/01 Monday Morning I was mildly disappointed that Catherine didn't take her shirt off. Movie was just average. 3 stars
6/02/01 greensweater Douglas & Zeta are lame. Eric Foreman steals the show. 2 stars
5/25/01 Jason Disappointing, overated coming out Blow beats it by far 3 stars
5/13/01 IM Great, great film....better than the boredom of the 5 hour miniseries 5 stars
4/25/01 Greg No, the comments came from people with pulses 1 stars
4/23/01 Skip Young The 3 comments below are out of touch with reality. 5 stars
4/22/01 Luke Me and my friend chucked fizzo lollies at people the whole time, oh it was very humerous :) 1 stars
4/19/01 Greg Very predictable, just like any other drug movie except no excitement. 1 stars
4/14/01 Bill B Simply the worst. 3 people were asleep in my row alone. 1 stars
4/13/01 Piz Del Toro & company are dizzying and gets flat at times tho 4 stars
4/05/01 Hawkeye Gritty, realistic and anything but a "feel good" movie. Go see it! 5 stars
3/28/01 Matthew Bartley Deserved every one of its awards 5 stars
3/26/01 neil bartlett I sat riveted. A job well done. Del Toro deserves his Oscar 5 stars
3/26/01 zeitgeist oh, the futility 5 stars
3/24/01 Alex Benicio del Toro was amazing 5 stars
3/23/01 JB No great but good. Great cast. Cool arrangement of scenes. 3 stars
3/21/01 bjshrink Disappointing. Hedged its bets, then ended up with a sentimental, Hollywood ending. 3 stars
3/17/01 JB How come all the baddies are Mexican or black? How come there are no corrupt US police? 3 stars
3/12/01 viking A film we should all see 5 stars
3/07/01 Mike This guy made Erin Brokavich? 5 stars
3/04/01 Rael One of the most skillfully acted and directed films of recent years. 5 stars
3/04/01 Gini We're losing the drug war; that's a fucking revelation?! 1 stars
3/04/01 Suzz good but predictable 4 stars
3/02/01 manual_overide Loved it!! I live like 10 seconds from where they filmed the drug scenes in Cincinnati!!! 5 stars
2/22/01 Fredy Not realistic enough. Where were the hollywood producers sniffing coke... hmmm? 2 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Agreed, one of 2000s best 5 stars
2/20/01 W. Sharif One of the best films of 2000 5 stars
2/18/01 Ken VERY long but VERY good as well. Watch it if you want something to think about. 5 stars
2/14/01 Artist Freak Complex, incisive film about a Gordian knot of an ignored problem. 5 stars
2/13/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Aside from the rather gag-inducing offscreen romance of CZJ & MD, not bad at all. 4 stars
2/12/01 bob buttons this movie fucking sucks way too long, too many subplots that no one understands. fuck it. 2 stars
2/12/01 Julie Loved it.......This movie shows the way it really is. 5 stars
2/12/01 john d(THE DUDE) A pile of shit 1 stars
2/10/01 astrotart Drug war movie tells you how it is without the use of dramatic overkill or happy endings. 4 stars
2/09/01 I Campbell Catch it on cable. Too forula and preachy. Del Toro is the only actor worth mentioning. 2 stars
2/08/01 Johnny Figaro Dash of style can't overcome 2-D characters and plot. In a better year would be ignored. 3 stars
2/08/01 ObiWan I've seen stronger epics. Del Toro, Cheadle were good, but OVERRATED 3 stars
2/07/01 Gordon Lawrie Like a 2 1/2 hour episode of "Miami Vice" nothing new here 2 stars
2/06/01 Bobby Too much hype 2 stars
2/05/01 Stuntman it was freaking awesome 5 stars
2/04/01 Owen Croak A 2.5 hr film ought to make some sort of statement in that time. Traffic doesn't. 2 stars
2/03/01 Kert Gartner Fucking awesome! 5 stars
2/02/01 Patrick Tiffany good good good good 5 stars
2/01/01 R Kramer Everyone needs to see this film. Is the drug war insane or what!!! 4 stars
1/30/01 Matthew Bartley Enthralling, terrific, suspenseful, intelligent, absorbing,thrilling what more do you want? 5 stars
1/29/01 rubber VERY mediocre 3 stars
1/26/01 Blubberbot It had some good parts and some bad parts. I'd rather watch a documentary on the subject. 3 stars
1/24/01 ObiWab Worth the price of a ticket to see Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle. The screenplay sucked. 4 stars
1/22/01 Unommon Sense Slept through much of it. No excitement, no suspense,little English.Too much subtitling 2 stars
1/22/01 Evan Price beautifully executed drug drama 5 stars
1/20/01 Marguerite absolutley loved it! Needed another 10 minutes! 5 stars
1/18/01 loser owns 5 stars
1/17/01 Jes Very artistic... 5 stars
1/16/01 Jim Kidd One part of me said it sucked but the other part bitchslapped that side and said it rocked! 5 stars
1/15/01 Silo It really sucks when the daughter dies at the end! 5 stars
1/15/01 Jefferson Darcy Stupid people walking out of the theater say "That was so boring". I almost hit them. 4 stars
1/14/01 orpy mostly great movie; depressing though 4 stars
1/13/01 rob Pretty damn good, but could be better 4 stars
1/13/01 bartv Exciting, engrossing, good acting. CZ Jones was a great villain. 5 stars
1/12/01 tnt Interesting and enjoyable...very real 4 stars
1/11/01 Boy In The Designer Bubble I'm so bored with drug flicks. I'm gonna have to get stoned to sit thru another one. 3 stars
1/11/01 DAVE Time and time again you'll think it's over, but it's far from it. 4 stars
1/11/01 Matt69 Great peformances by the coke head daughter and Benico del toro 5 stars
1/10/01 brian doesn't insult the audience... real people....not one dimensional hollywood characters 5 stars
1/10/01 puckfreak Over-hyped, surely not "Fucking Awesome" but worthy of a "Worth A Look" 4 stars
1/10/01 denise this is a bad ass movie! wonderful on many levels. 5 stars
1/10/01 Kiss My Grits damn best film i've seen in a long long time 5 stars
1/09/01 poetcdh Washed out colors are tedious, CZJ character makes big change from naive to player, how? 3 stars
1/08/01 Robert Goddamned good filmmaking. Exposes the realities of the failed war on drugs. 5 stars
1/08/01 Thor-Leo Too long. Neither engaging nor affecting. Too many characters, most of them poorly realized 3 stars
1/07/01 zak this is a true horror film, becasue it's quite possibly the world we live in 5 stars
1/07/01 Meagan A very realistic look at the drug problem without providing easy answers. 5 stars
1/06/01 frankko the best movie of 2000. 5 stars
1/06/01 Foreman One of the best movies I've ever seen. Everyone & everything is amazing, even Topher Grace! 5 stars
1/06/01 Harlan Pepper I loved everything about this movie. Even the music is cool. 5 stars
1/06/01 Schwartzy Great direction! Brilliant cinematography! 5 stars
12/27/00 Emily This movie is about to blow up like crazy! 5 stars
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  05-Jan-2001 (R)


  08-Mar-2001 (M)

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