Professor Debby Bangert
19 October 2018
You’d Rather be Stuck in “Traffik” than Watch this Movie!
Human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profit by trapping millions of people, specifically women and children, in horrific situations everyday globally. Currently, there are 40 million victims of human trafficking, including here in the U.S. “Traffik” poses as exposé
of sex trafficking through a by-the-numbers, R-rated thriller full of violence, drugs and ironically, tons of romance. Though it may have had good intentions, this movie is sadly ineffectual and fails in its attempt to communicate a serious issue.
During her birthday, Sacramento journalist Brea (Paula Patton) loses the chance to debut her big story stolen by a colleague, along with the risk of now losing her job. Fortunately, her boyfriend, John (Omar Epps), has plans for a romantic weekend getaway and wedding proposal in a secluded mansion owned by his sleazy, drug-addicted lawyer friend Darren (Laz Alonso). Unfortunately, on the way up, they run into a gang of bikers, as well as a suspicious woman at the local gas station. Later, things are going great until Darren unexpectedly shows up with his girlfriend (Roselyn Sanchez) and discovers a mysterious satellite phone within Brea’s purse, revealing a graphic history of sex trafficking in the area. Before authorities could be called, the traffickers show up at the door, demanding the phone back and stop at nothing to protect their evil business.
The protagonist, Brea is played by bright-eyed producer/actress Paula Patton, known for her roles in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and “Precious.” Writer/director Deon Taylor specifically chose Patton based on her sly role in the movie “Déjà Vu,” and the vulnerability in her face, which is opposite of her usual “innocent and naïve” stature. However, the beautiful yet clueless Patton makes the movie only partially entertaining and hard to take any of it seriously. This may be due to the director’s persistence of focusing solely on Patton’s body in multiple sex scenes, rather than the actual story during the first thirty minutes of the movie, or how her moments of clumsiness and hesitation dominated her times of strength and perseverance that should’ve been highlighted on. Her lover, John, played by Omar Epps, (Love ; Basketball and Juice), draws away from his normal “tough guy” roles by showing a more reserved and sensitive side that is rarely seen from him, but the audience doesn’t get to know much about him compared to Brea. Darren, John’s impulsive best friend, portrayed by Laz Alonso, holds an obnoxious demeanor due to drugs and relationship issues that may annoy the audience and slightly interfere with the script. In addition, the movie’s antagonists are cliché with a sinister bald guy as the leader and a gang of indistinguishable, bearded bikers, who are all “surprisingly” led by the town’s chief of police (Missi Pyle) whose uniform disguises her malevolent manner.
Despite the poor relationship between Patton and Taylor during the movie, the dynamic cinematography captured by Dante Spinotti creates a sense of ominousness and effectively enhances the story Taylor is trying to tell. Once the movie has reached its climax, there is never a scene that keeps you on the edge of your seat, screaming at the tv. Specifically, the gruesome scene towards the end highlights the nightmare of being abducted as barely clothed women and children are shown enslaved in an underground tunnel being brutally beaten and drugged. To top it off, the director plays Nina Simone’s, “Strange Fruit,” during this scene to drive the viewers into believing how realistic events like this are. “Strange Fruit,” was the perfect song selection for this scene due to its historic background of promoting anti-lynching and dramatizes how similar human trafficking is to slavery in the 1800s.
Ultimately, “Traffik” is both a female empowerment and victimization story combined into a slightly less convincing film. The ineffectiveness of this movie will have you racing to your car in search of better entertainment, starting with an even better female lead. Between Taylor and Spinotti creating snazzy cinematography and double-duty actress/producer Patton desperately persuading her audience to take the film seriously, it’s almost impossible to do so on any level based on the naïve, indecisive characters and predictable suspense scenes from beginning to end. This movie has potential to serve a purpose, but I would not suggest it to anyone who is searching for more information on human trafficking.