The greatest testimony for Mr. Soderbergh's movie comes from Americans addicted to hard drugs who say he got everything right.

TRAFFIC

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Then you see Traffic, and you must, you'll endure the ingredients of a genuine R rating: violence, alcohol, and sex, all in the service of the drug trade. The people who work this trade have only one goal: to sell hard drugs to 26 million American children under the age of 15. That's the drug cartel's business plan: a market guaranteed forever by addiction.

Steven Soderbergh sears us with the hot iron of market economics, and then leaves us chilled and filled with rage. Is any part of our multimillion-dollar drug program working? Soderbergh's answer: No. Do you attack the supply or the demand? The Mexican cartels are driven by American demand for their products, and they have both an infinite supply and far more money to implement their marketing program than the U.S. government has to fight it.

Watching Traffic may be an ordeal, but it so graphic, so sure in its characterizations, that no one who sees it is likely to return to complacency and ignorance. The movie is a body blow to those hardworking professionals who come home to use Ecstasy when they party, while their young children, innocently asleep in their beds upstairs will become targets of the drug trade once they reach the fifth grade. U.S. high school students are experimenting right now with the most addictive drugs Mexico can make. We're not talking here about smoking pot.

Mr. Soderbergh drives his stake into the heart with a three-pronged guided tour of the drug chain. In a sepia-toned Mexico, Javier (Benicio Del Toro) and Manolo (Jacob Vargas), two decent state cops are caught in the corporate drug war between the Obregon and Madrigal families.

In Cincinnati, filmed in cool blue, an earnest and determined Ohio Supreme Court justice (Michael Douglas) has been appointed the U.S. drug czar at the same time he is discovering that his daughter (Erika Christensen), an accomplished student in their affluent suburb, has fallen down the local drug hole.

In golden California, two federal agents (Don Cheadle and Luiz Guzman) arrest a dealer who has ratted on his boss (Steven Bauer). As the boss is carted off to prison, his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) begins to understand that her husband is not what he seems.

The common threads in the three complicated plot lines are betrayal, brutality, and an absolute lack of conscience. No Mexican lured into this business is likely to escape the ugly hand of the bosses. Mr. Soderbergh's cast of dozens is uniformly good. They have listened and observed so that they build the layered performances demanded by the shifting sands of deception.

The daunting dimensions of the problem feel like a blow to the head. The Mexican drug lords have the product and the business plan; we have the market. Their product is killing our people, and we are buying everything they offer for sale.

The greatest testimony for Mr. Soderbergh's movie comes from Americans addicted to hard drugs who say he got everything right.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : USA Films
Rating : R
Running time : 2h18m


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