Appearing at first to be like Taken meets Straw Dogs, Traffik is a gripping thriller and writer and director Deon Taylor does an amazing job imbuing far more depth and originality into it than can be is found in many similar films of the same genre.
The set up seems simple as Brea (Paula Patton from Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) an naive reporter is taken away for her birthday by her boyfriend John (House star Omar Epps) to their friends secluded and extravagant mountain estate.
On the way up to the house they get petrol in a rundown truck stop in the middle of nowhere where John runs into some trouble from a biker gang who take against him. Inside Brea has an equally unexpected encounter with a haunted looking woman who seemingly asks for her help before being ordered away by another aggressive burly biker.
Unsettled by the events but eager to make the most of their romantic getaway the couple arrive at the amazing location and enjoy some quality time before they are disturbed by John’s obnoxious friend and the owner of the house Darren (Avatar’s Laz Alonso) and his lady friend Malia (Roselyn Sanchez from Rush Hour 2).
However the foursome are about to face something much more dangerous than they could ever imagine as Brea finds an item in her bag placed there by the troubled girl from the truck stop and things spiral out of control with deadly and disastrous consequences for everyone involved.
You may think from the above synopsis that not only can you predict what happens in Traffik but also exactly what sort of film it is however you would be very wrong. With many of the tropes and conventions on display throughout Traffik, most obviously the sophisticated city slickers versus lame brained country yokels, the film also dares to discuss race, gender and much more at times subtly but other times putting its opinions blatantly and brutally to the forefront.
This is most evident in the use of Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit in a particularly disturbing and shocking scene, the song and images brilliantly blending and linking a modern scourge on our society with a much older one.
Most importantly although the movie seemingly shows John’s perspective at the start we soon see this is very much Brea’s story and this change from the norm elevates Traffik above the usual trite and frankly sexist action thrillers where the woman is only ever a victim and the man is always her savior.
Paula Patton’s performance is excellent and the innocent idealistic characters journey through horrific adversity shows her transforming into something else entirely by the end of the movie. The rest of the cast are equally good including Missi Pyle from Galaxy Quest, Blade II’s Luke Goss and Empire and Drive Angry William Fichtner all playing against type which is exsciting to see.
A terrifying tale of survival Traffik takes a standard thriller set up and tries to invigorate the genre and illuminate its audience while still entertaining which is no mean feat and credit is definitely due to Deon Taylor for attempting something different. Let’s hope Traffik gets him a green light for more interesting projects in the future.