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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Soderbergh needs to kick the Hollywood habit."
3 stars

Well-acted and smoothly directed, Steven Soderbergh's 'Traffic' is nonetheless the most wildly overpraised, overnominated movie since 'Saving Private Ryan.' Was 2000 really such a substandard year that a decent but flat piece of work like 'Traffic' is airlifted to the top of the crap heap?

Soderbergh, working from a speechy script by Stephen Gaghan, wants to give us a panoramic, crackling view of the drug trade -- the users, the dealers, the enforcers, all caught in a self-perpetuating loop of need, greed, and ignorance. What he ends up with, I'm afraid, is very much like two and a half episodes of Miami Vice edited together and color-coded.

The color-coding is part of Soderbergh's stylistic agenda this time out. Scenes in Mexico, featuring honest cop Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), are a washed-out grainy yellow, sleepy and left out in the sun. Scenes dealing with Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the pregnant and clueless wife of a busted druglord (Steven Bauer), unfold in more naturalistic light, the better for the camera to dote on Zeta-Jones' luminous skin tones (she was actually pregnant during filming). Scenes involving newly anointed drug czar Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), whose 16-year-old daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) is in a free-fall of freebase and sex, comprise the bluest, chilliest footage since David Cronenberg's Crash.

The name Wakefield, like much else in Traffic, is a bit too obvious (the drug czar wakes up to the reality of the drug problem -- get it?). Every character is there to preach, or to learn, the movie's thesis that the "war on drugs" is a wasteful sham. People praised the film's bravery in announcing this, as if cultural and political critics hadn't been saying it for decades (even National Review ran a cover story conceding the point). Traffic is one of those square-up-the-middle tracts that make people think they're thinking. It's not likely to face many arguments, and it stacks the deck by having Michael Douglas' nice white daughter getting high and even, gasp, having sex with black men. (Oddly, Requiem for a Dream also had Jennifer Connolly arriving at the same presumably horrific fate. Message to white parents: Keep your daughters off the drugs and they'll stay off the black guys.)

This is Benicio Del Toro's movie, if it's anyone's. What little he says is in Spanish, so he sidesteps the stiff dialogue; in an elegant, near-silent performance, he lets us read his disillusionment rather than hearing it at length, as with some of his castmates. Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman get some comic friction going as a pair of undercover narcs, but they're a couple of good actors playing variations on 2,000 other movie cops. Zeta-Jones has some lovely pangs of hurt when her husband is taken away, but her progression to an ice queen la Talia Shire in The Godfather Part III is too facile; when she orders someone's death, we're not shocked so much by her ferocity as by her abrupt, thinly written shift to Machiavellian evil.

Steven Soderbergh began 2000 with the frisky, rousing Erin Brockovich, and has now ended it with a film much better cast and directed than it deserves. Except for the color-coding (and maybe not even that), he doesn't do much that hasn't been done before, by himself or others. Even poor Michael Douglas, except for one quietly effective moment when Wakefield confronts a man about to fuck his daughter (there's no other word for it), seems pinched and restless, as if he knew he's being used for his angry-white-male aura and little else. Soderbergh, too, is used for his radical-filmmaker credentials; he makes a very conventional melodrama feel ragged and independent. He does more for Traffic than it does for him, much like an addict and his dealer, and by the end you sense Soderbergh burning out. His final image is of a children's baseball game, which elsewhere might be a calming, enigmatic visual, but here it whacks you over the head: See, the national pastime -- just like drugs! And the players get younger every year!

Maybe Soderbergh has experimented long enough with the drug of Hollywood; he's starting to like it, and need it, too much.

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originally posted: 01/11/07 08:04:15
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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)


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