2019-05-10 09:19


A weekend away in his friend's cabin soon turns into a nightmare for a couple as they find themselves in the midst of a human trafficking ring. 


Traffik – nope, no idea what's with the incorrect spelling – is a very strange mix of b-grade thriller and a tough look at human trafficking that works about as badly as you would expect. It's intentions are clearly honourable and it is a solidly, if unspectacularly, put together thriller but it is such a mess of tones and ideas that the very best you could say about it is that it's a fairly interesting failure.

Even as a straight-ahead thriller, though, it's a rather strange beast. It's opening half-hour deals mostly with the relationship between our main couple - played surprisingly quite badly, it has to be said, by Paula Patton and Omar Epps – as she struggles to decide whether she's ready to be married to him as a proposal clearly looms. The dialogue is as creaky here as the acting is inept (Patton is usually better than this, isn't she?) and aside for being a slow start to the film, it's also filmed with an underlying dread that is completely at odds with what's actually happening on screen. 

Again, this actually makes the film's first act rather intriguing as it looks for all the world like writer/director Deon Taylor is so single-minded in making a thriller that he forgot to give the parts of the film that clearly aren't set to be in that mode a different tone. It makes no sense, it doesn't work at all but there's something to be said for watching a whole section that is clearly supposed to be a romantic drama, play out like one of the two leads are about to be mutilated by Freddy Krueger. 

This is all especially ironic as when it's supposed to kick into full on white-knuckle thriller mode, it's not even remotely thrilling, as it actually plays out like a run-of-the-mill slasher flick with all of its little twists and turns largely falling flat. And this is before you notice that all of this schlocky nonsense is playing out on a canvas made up of the sobering, real-world horrors of human trafficking. 

Which isn't to say that Taylor isn't taking the human-trafficking aspects of the story seriously. He clearly wants to paint a grim picture of one of the world's vilest underworld activities and there's an earnestness and sombreness to the way the film deals with the subject that ensures that the film doesn't end up feeling like a distasteful exercise in trivialising the untrivialisable – even if that's ultimately exactly what it is. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions but the intentions of a film like this do matter and do go a long way in preventing an unfortunate, ton-deaf misfire from becoming something truly objectionable.  

And, really, the fact that it does misfire quite as spectacularly as it does actually elevates it above similar fair, like an upcoming home-invasion thriller with a certain ex-wrestler (not that ex-wrestler), which is just unspeakably boring. That doesn't change the fact that Traffik is badly written, badly acted and horribly misjudged but it's something.

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