Film Review: Traffik

1970s exploitation lives in this lean, mean tale of vacationing city folk who accidentally run afoul of rural human traffickers.
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Brea and John (Paula Patton and Omar Epps) are successful urban professionals, though her fortunes have just taken a turn for the worse. John is a mechanic who rebuilds vintage cars and restores them to pristine condition, a lucrative niche. Brea is a journalist who's invested a year in investigating a major Sacramento real-estate scandal, only to scooped by a colleague with less scrupulous standards; she's now effectively unemployed and in serious need of some downtime.

Enter Brea and John's pal Darren (Laz Alonso), a successful sports agent who has a mountain cabin—actually a fabulous piece of modern design, including an infinity pool with a view—he's happy to let them use. Sweet deal, though it would have been nice if Darren and his girlfriend Malia (Roselyn Sanchez) hadn't shown up quite so soon and interrupted his pals' naughty weekend with relationship drama that ends with Malia storming out of the house.

But Darren and Malia are the least of their problems: Brea has accidentally stumbled upon a human-trafficking ring after a disturbing encounter with a scrawny, battered-looking woman in a gas-station bathroom. Oh, and connectivity—don't count on it here in the boonies.

Writer-director Deon Taylor's Traffik—which opens with the assertion that it's "inspired by true events"—starts out like every movie ever about city folks vacationing in the hostile sticks, except that instead of just "not being from around here," John and Brea are also African-American and so doubly outsiders. And while it's hard to call Traffik a one-film justice crusade, there are moments that address both endemic racism and exploitation of the vulnerable and culturally disenfranchised in strikingly direct terms within the context of an action thriller. Which is to say that it's the kind of movie that audiences looking for some easy-on-the-brain entertainment might actually watch.

Traffik isn't subtle, but it puts across the message that sex trafficking isn't just about girls from Mexico, Eastern Europe and China being sold into sexual slavery and goes so far as to strongly suggest that it's just one of many forms of endemic exploitation that largely go unnoticed, while also working as a fish-out-of-water thriller.

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