Please distribute this URL as you see fit. By Ted Baldwin
Amusing, isn't it?
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Traffic"

SPOILERS!!
Teen Crack Whore!
Gringos!
BEWARE!
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Five possible.
.      There are things in this film that I disagree with - blaming whites for black drug dealing, the idea of an inept and unprofessional political appointee sacrificing his power and agenda for his family (more on that later), an "intelligent" high school addict speaking directly and disrespectfully to an adult, with no consequences - not likely. However, in looking at the
dis-ease evident in the people we meet in this engrossing and creatively souped up NYPDBorder-Blues cop-o-drama, you can see the results of permissiveness and indirect parenting for yourselves.

     The above are simply story points I find unrealistic. The balance of the film is hard hitting, tough, and despite more than 2 and a half hours, it keeps interest.

     Some creepy druggies, and a fine mom-turned-psycho drug dealer role by Zeta-Jones, and Benicio Del Toro - compelling as a border-crossing kidnapping Tijuana state cop - make the minutes fly.

     It is every crime story we know rolled into a fiesta burrito - and shot in a semi-documentary form. Maybe in thirty years we will look at the tour of the El Paso I C the same way we see filmic '40's tours of the FBI today. Seemingly very informative - but not pertinent to tomorrow's society.

     Originality meets style is not the way I'd describe Traffic. It has a very Law and Order, NYPD blue feel to it, from the point by point journey down the trail of drug arrest to wiretaps to border intrigue, saturated with details and connecting-the-dots . Visually, it gives us saturated grainy wet blues for Southern California, and sepia-browned grit for anything South of the border. It helps keep us clued in on where we are.

     The weak points bear exploration, because they are virtually signposts to a better tomorrow.

     At the heart of the matter is a seemingly effective man, Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas. He has the external trappings of power and success, but his home life is rotten to the core. His daughter is keeping company with addicts, who are getting her introduced to the good stuff - crack and sex. When a buddy overdoses they ddump him out at the hospital, trying to save their own wretched asses.

     Their cowardice, placing the life of their 'friend' beneath their own happy little circumstances, is only the polished tip of their immoral and vacant lives. They think they know everything, not unusual for teens, but they have absolutely no moral compass Their disrespect and self-serving hedonism, masquerading as enlightenment, begs to have the crap knocked out of it. Their imaginations have been limited by the absolutely free fall of integrity accepted in "society" of the 90's as de-riguer for a truly "actualized" spirit.

     Such spirits are not ennobled, they are sick.

     We cannot exist outside of the need for companionship and trust. And those things, when not accompanied by each other, are useless. Topher Grace, in an award winnable performance, delivers the dis-affected goods.

     More brutal than Downey's drug riddled zombie in Less Than Zero, Grace shows us what pinnacles selfishness can rise to. And the reflection of that callowness can be seen in the next tier - the adults smuggling and trading lives and drugs - and yet again those older - grandpas and the elders, milling about controlling nations and armies and illicit commerce. it is not a syndrome, it is a system.

     Against this disturbing and genuine backdrop, the submission of Wakefield shows what weakness can do for you - very little. Where his daughter needs guidance, he substitutes posturing, where she needs a unified front to tackle her addiction, he caves to his wife's permissiveness, when given an opportunity to make a real difference, he attitudes himself out of the job. He is a quitter, but for that matter, he was not right for the job. He does manage to track down his runaway crack whore daughter, but he does not deal with the bad guys the way the moment called for, the way a frantic Dad would.

     His final act of immolation is abandoning his appointment to the War on Drugs, presumably because he cannot stand the idea of declaring war on his family (as though that were really what was expected of him), and his excuse is that his family needs him - perhaps the most shallow turn in the film. There is no doubt that attaining that post would enable his attack on the causes of drug use and commerce to be of enormous benefit to socienty and to his ability to treat his family's problems. Not only that, he would be in a position to approach the problem from the viewpoint of an involved family member.

     How much more courageous it would have been to take the drug war in a new direction from the moment he was sworn in!

     It came down to feel-good posturing, I think, instead of taking an adult look at how such an empowered individual could influence the war on drugs. And if he had chosen the work over family, and the daughter died, it would have made for very interesting coffee shop discussions. But it is a small complaint once you get past it.

     Other trust elements run throughout Traffic, and there is betrayal at almost every turn. In fact, the story is driven by the inability of drug involved people to trust anyone or anything.

     Soderberg has assembled an epic film with an immense cast. Cradled in the rolling landscape of our turn of the new century, the immensity and scope of the production is all but invisible. Until you examine the cast list (below, thanks to IMDB), it is not apparent that the cast of characters far exceeds that of Cleopatra or Ben Hur, and even that of Phantom Menace. It does.

     I am content to praise this film for what it is, as opposed to praising it for what some people think it is on the surface, or want it to be. It is a orchestral work - a full symphony - playing the familiar chopsticks. We are so attuned to the melody, we ignore the music itself.

     And I suppose we better start looking around.


Cast (in credits order)
Michael Douglas .... Robert Wakefield
Don Cheadle .... Montel Gordon
Benicio Del Toro .... Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez
Luis Guzmán .... Ray Castro
Dennis Quaid .... Arnie Metzger
Catherine Zeta-Jones .... Helena Ayala
Steven Bauer .... Carlos Ayala
Jacob Vargas .... Manolo Sanchez
Erika Christensen .... Caroline Wakefield
Clifton Collins Jr. .... Francisco Flores
Miguel Ferrer .... Eduardo Ruiz
Topher Grace .... Seth Abrahams
Amy Irving .... Barbara Wakefield
Beau Holden .... Cal-Trans D.E.A. Agent #1
Peter Riegert .... Attorney Michael Adler
Benjamin Bratt .... Juan Obregon
Tomas Milian .... General Arturo Salazar
Marisol Padilla Sánchez .... Ana Sanchez
Albert Finney .... Chief of Staff
Joel Torres .... Porfilio Madrigal
D.W. Moffett .... Jeff Sheridan
James Brolin .... General Ralph Landry
Jsu Garcia .... Pablo Obregon (as Nick Corri)
Corey Spears .... F*****-Up Bowman
Majandra Delfino .... Vanessa
Alec Roberts .... David Ayala
Bill Weld .... Himself (Governor)
Don Nickles .... Himself (Senator)
Harry Reid (III) .... Himself (Senator)
Jeff Podolsky .... Himself
Barbara Boxer .... Herself (Senator)
Orrin G. Hatch .... Himself (Senator)
Charles Grassley .... Himself (Senator)
James Pickens Jr. .... Prosecutor Ben Williams
Rudy M. Camacho .... Customs Official
Yul Vazquez .... Tigrillo/Obregon Assassin
Jack Conley .... Agent Hughes
Eddie Velez .... Agent Johnson
Craig N. Chretien .... Director of EPIC
John Brown (II) .... Assistant Director of EPIC
Mike Siegel .... DEA Representative
Stephen J. Rose .... Marty
Kimber Fritz .... Rehab Counselor
Daniella Kuhn .... Tourist Woman
Brandon Keener .... Tourist Man
George Blumenthal .... Partygoer #1
Stephen Dunham .... Lobbyist
Margaret Travolta .... Economist
Jewelle Bickford .... Partygoer #2
Dave Hager .... Partygoer #3
Tucker Smallwood .... Partygoer #4
Víctor Quintero .... Salazar Soldier
Toby Holguin .... Salazar Soldier
Ramiro González .... Salazar Soldier
Viola Davis (I) .... Social Worker
Elaine Kagan .... Judge Reed
John Slattery .... ADA Dan Collier
Jimmy Ortega .... Arrested Man in Apartment (as Jim Ortega)
Greg Boniface .... Tackled Man #1
Thomas Rosales Jr. .... Tackled Man #2 (as Tom Rosales)
Harsh Nayyar .... Witness #1
Mary Pat Gleason .... Witness #2
Vincent Ward .... Man on Street
Gregory Estevane .... Polygraph Administrator
Alex Procopio .... Polygraph Assistant
Rita Gomez .... Mrs. Castro
Kaizaad Kotwal .... Teacher
David Jensen (II) .... John
Jay Krymis .... Waiter #1 (as Jay Fernando Krymis)
Mike Malone (II) .... Waiter #2
René Pereya .... Doctor
Kymberly Newberry .... Press Secretary (as Kymberly S. Newberry)
Carroll Schumacher .... Ayala Security
Michael Showers .... Meeting Leader
Rena Sofer .... Helena's Friend
Stacey Travis .... Helena's Friend
Jennifer Barker .... Helena's Friend
Dean Faulkner .... Helena's Friend
Andrew Chavez .... Desert Truck Driver
Michael Saucedo .... Desert Truck Driver
Jose Yenque .... Salazar Soldier/Torturer
Emilio Rivera .... Salazar Soldier #2
Michael O'Neill (I) .... Lawyer Rodman
Russell G. Jones .... Clerk
Lorene Hetherington .... State Capitol Reporter #1
Eric Collins (III) .... State Capitol Reporter #2
Peter Stader .... DEA Agent (CalTrans)
James Lew .... DEA Agent (CalTrans)
Jeremy Fitzgerald .... DEA Agent (CalTrans)
Russell Solberg .... DEA Agent (CalTrans)
Don Snell .... DEA Agent (Trailer)
Enrique Murciano .... DEA Agent (Trailer)
Gary Cervantes .... DEA Agent (Trailer) (as Gary Carlos Cervantes)
Carl Ciarfalio .... Ruiz's Assistant
Steven Lambert .... Van Driver (as Steve Lambert)
Gilbert Rosales .... Van Passenger
Rick Avery .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Mario Roberts .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Eileen Weisinger .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Ken Johnston (I) .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Mike Watson (I) .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Kurt D. Lott .... DEA Agent (Public Storage) (as Kurt Lott)
Lincoln Simonds .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Steve Tomaski .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Buck McDancer .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
John Callery .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Ousaun Elam .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
Brian Avery (I) .... DEA Agent (Public Storage)
rest of cast listed alphabetically
Tracey Brown (II) .... Extra
Salma Hayek .... Madrigal's Mistress (uncredited)
Harry Reed .... Himself (senator)
See what I mean? It just goes on and on.
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