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Traffic

Starring: Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Steve Soderbergh
Genre: Drama
Year: 2000
Rating: 4 / 5

Traffic is a two-hour public service announcement about the evils of drug use; it might as well be condensed into a thirty-second commercial. So it was explained to me by a friend after a screening of this Steven Soderbergh drama. In fact, Traffic is a gritty, modern take on America's war on drugs, where the lines between good and bad are never too clear. The film reminds us that the central problem is not control of the supply of drugs - it is control of the demand. Is the war on drugs a war we can win? Traffic does not answer that question, nor does it pretend to - it merely shows us the true nature of the problem.

Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) is a respected Ohio judge slated for appointment as the new United States drug czar. His task is a daunting one, and it is made all the more difficult by the realization that the front lines of this battle are American homes. In fact, his view of the problem is about to change dramatically, as his daughter Caroline's (Erika Christensen) drug dependency escalates to frightening proportions. How can Judge Wakefield attempt to lead the nation's anti-drug forces when he cannot cope with a problem inside his own home?

Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) is a Mexican police officer in Tijuana, eager to help stop the seemingly endless shipments of drugs into the United States. After a successful bust, Javier comes into contact with General Salazar, the head of Mexico's anti-drug efforts, a man who seems to share Javier's beliefs. Alas, Salazar's motives are not so pure, leaving Javier to wonder if he can really make a difference. Up the coast, Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) must cope with her drug-dealing husband's sudden incarceration and face the prospect of financial ruin, vengeful suppliers, and federal surveillance. Will she crumble under the pressure, or will she rise to the top of the family business?

Traffic is full of fine performances, though none are as impressive as Benicio Del Toro's oft-lauded, award-winning effort. Delivered primarily in Spanish, Del Toro's Javier is a complex man, one who wants to do right but understands the nuances of the system. The rest of the film belongs to director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich), the man who seamlessly weaves together three disparate tales. A grainy texture makes scenes in Mexico seem all the more hopeless, while alternate shots of Wakefield's neighborhood reveal just how out of touch the judge is with his own daughter. Traffic depicts the harsh underbelly of our nation's drug problem, showcasing a side not often seen in Hollywood films. Now we must ask ourselves: What we are prepared to do about it?

Cast:

Michael Douglas..........Robert Wakefield
Benicio Del Toro..........Javier Rodriguez
Don Cheadle..........Montel Gordon
Luis Guzman..........Ray Castro
Catherine Zeta-Jones..........Helena Ayala
Steven Bauer..........Carlos Ayala
Miguel Ferrer..........Eduardo Ruiz

Certification: Rated R for violence, language, and sexuality.
Running Time: 147 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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