The sleazy exploitation flick “Traffik” tries to disguise itself as a socially important film but fails. Instead, it’s unpleasant, distasteful, and trashy.
Newspaper reporter Brea (Paula Patton) heads out to a secluded house in the mountains for a romantic weekend with her mechanic boyfriend John (Omar Epps). After a strange encounter with a battered woman at a local gas station (who secretly slips a phone into Brea’s bag), the biker gang holding her hostage surprises the couple by showing up at their weekend retreat. There are serious secrets on that phone that the villains want back, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.
The film becomes a do or die battle of survival with lots of bloody cat and mouse gun play and is as boring as it is predictable. The paint by numbers script is oozing with apathy and the dialogue lifeless, which is made even worse due to the laughably awful performances.
Why Patton is continuing her career as an actress is a question for the ages. She inexplicably keeps getting cast in movies and she continues to be a major distraction. The unintentional hilarity from her clunky line delivery with permanently furrowed brow detracts from the any ounce of sincerity the material may have once had. A film with such heavy political and social themes should be unforgettable because of fantastic storytelling. Here it’s unforgettable because of its Razzie worthy performance from its lead actress.
It’s not just Patton who’s the problem. The supporting cast isn’t much better, the worst among them is Missi Pyle as the local sheriff and Laz Alonso as an obnoxious sports agent friend. (None of these career choices ever really come into play except for Patton’s journalism background, which is as ridiculous as it is disappointing). Every character feels false and there’s not one person that you’ll truly want to root for. There’s zero emotional connection.
The movie throws in all sorts of sleazy exploitation flick elements too, from skimpily clad women and drug use to the lowest of the low: attempted rape. It’s unpleasant and feels distasteful and trashy. Sorry, but I don’t need (nor do I want) to see the camera linger on the bruised and battered body of a woman half-nude and clad in short shorts and lingerie. The most tasteless and offensive scene is when the likely racist white sheriff walks in slow motion to Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” a song with lyrics about the lynchings of African Americans. How could anyone have thought this was a good idea?
The disturbing human trafficking element seems out of place in a by-the-book action thriller. I’m sure good intentions started this project but the tacked-on facts and figures about human trafficking over the end credits felt more awkward than earnest, especially since there was no clear call to action or information about how you can help stop or aid victims of this crime.