I have no clever segue. Saw this trailer a few times in theaters and that’s about it. Man, my openers are getting really boring these days.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Paula Patton (WARCRAFT , MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL , and HITCH ) and Omar Epps (ALMOST CHRISTMAS  and DRACULA 2000 ). In support, we have Roselyn Sanchez (ACT OF VALOR , BASIC , and RUSH HOUR 2 ), Laz Alonso (DETROIT , AVATAR , CONSTANTINE , and the upcoming ARMED ), Missi Pyle (JUMANJI 2 , CAPTAIN FANTASTIC , and upcoming films SLEEP AWAY  and GRACE ), William Fichtner (12 STRONG , INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 , and upcoming films FINDING STEVE MCQUEEN  and THE GETTYSBERG ADDRESS ), and Dawn Olivieri (DEN OF THIEVES , THE LAST WITCH HUNTER , and upcoming films DARC  and BEHIND THE CURTAIN OF NIGHT ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Deon Taylor, known for stuff I’ve never heard of, and upcoming films THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR (2018) and MOTIVATED SELLER (2018). Composing the score is Geoff Zanelli, known for PIRATES 5 (2017), MASTERMINDS (2016), and upcoming films RED SHOES & THE 7 DWARVES (2018) and MOTIVATED SELLER. The cinematographer is Dante Spinotti, known for I SAW THE LIGHT (2016), and the upcoming ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018). Finally, the editor is Melissa Kent, known for AMERICAN PASTORAL (2016), CAPTIVE (2015), and the upcoming MOTIVATED SELLER.
I think this movie is going to be hit or miss for me. Either it’ll be satisfyingly entertaining, or… kinda boring. Racially charged “slasher” films (I know, it’s not a slasher film, but its in that vein if you ask me) like this come along pretty frequently and it’s hard to imagine that this’ll offer something new and different. The only highlight I know I’m going to like is Patton. Not that I’ve seen all of her work, but I’ve been happy to see her name ever since GHOST PROTOCOL. As well as Pyle, whom I’ve had a serious crush on since first seeing her in BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (2003), as well as Fichtner, whom I’m guessing is the “surprise” villain of the flick. Well, we’ll see.
This is my honest opinion of: TRAFFIK
Set in Northern California. Brea (Paula Patton) is a former reporter who just lost her job on her birthday, no less. Happily, she celebrates her birthday with her dysfunctionally married friends Darren (Laz Alonso) and Malia (Roselyn Sanchez), and her amazing and loving boyfriend, John (Omar Epps). Darren has just hooked up Brea and John with a fancy house used for his business and for them to use as a romantic getaway. Happily they accept. Stopping at a gas station near their destination, John comes across some racist bikers and Brea comes across a deeply troubled young woman named Cara (Dawn Olivieri) that the bikers don’t treat well. Leaving mostly well enough alone, the couple try to enjoy their time together, when Darren and Malia make a surprise visit. But things take a dramatic turn for the worse when Brea finds a satellite phone that Cara left her that has pictures of physically abused women that Brea comes to the conclusion is human trafficking and the bikers were the enforcers. However, their home is found by the traffickers and a struggle for survival begins.
Honestly, this was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, but sadly, it’s still not great.
As I thought, Patton was pretty good. For someone who stars and co-produces this movie, it’s almost a wonder why she didn’t direct it herself. Anyway, I like her charisma, which is sorely needed in a movie that has fairly paper thin characters. Brea is a stereotypical sweetheart. Kind-natured, inquisitive, empathetic, smart, the hallmarks of a good person. Thing is, there’s not much depth to her. Or any of the core characters really. Oh, but we should probably mention that Paula Patton is really hot! Like, didn’t you know that, dudes and dudettes? Paula Patton is attractive! Quite a looker, she is. Get a towel because we’re all drooling over her. Why is this such a big deal? Because every five God-damned minutes, the movie has to show Patton in something revealing. It’s so annoying. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: it’s not hard to come across an attractive woman in Hollywood! Patton being attractive isn’t new! Thank God, this simmers down by the time the actual plot kicks into high gear.
There’s also a couple of moments that go nowhere. For one thing, it’s built up that Brea’s been engaged, or married before. This plays into nothing for the rest of the story. It’s only in the beginning because she doesn’t know if she’s ready to be married again. She only comments, “I can’t get hurt again,” or something to that effect. We don’t know why her previous relationship ended and what happened to her, so it’s hard to understand just how much better John is for her and why we want them to be together by the end of the story.
The tone also shifts pretty aggressively. When Brea and John leave the gas station, they’re pursued by a single biker. Never mind now random this is, that it’s only one dude as opposed to the lot of them, but this winds up being a pretty brief and unexciting chase. Literally all that happens is that they cause him to drive off the road, unharmed, and drive away and the biker literally just stops chasing them for no reason. He could have easily picked up his bike and continued chasing, but… nope. Because he fell over, he just can’t go on. And it’s not like Brea and John lose him in a crowded highway or turn down a hidden road or anything, no, it’s a single road completely isolated and easy to follow. But the candle on this pointless flavored cake is that the very next scene is Brea and John arriving at the house and ogling over it as if they weren’t just in a high speed chase with a psychotic bigoted madman. Yeah, it’s not brought up again until much later. They don’t sit down and talk about it, they don’t talk about notifying the police, it’s just… “Let’s have sex in the pool.” Yes, a natural thing to happen after being attacked on the road.
Smaller issues include the plethora of clichés. Can’t have a borderline horror film like this without a lack of phone reception. Because that trope never gets old! And when a character gets into a car, of course the engine won’t start right away because somehow that builds tension, right? Even if we’ve seen that shit over and over again. Also, there is a staggeringly bad two minutes of terrible ADR. There’s this bit where Deputy Sally Marnes (Missi Pyle) is on the phone talking with her superior, possibly. But you don’t have to look too hard to see that the words being spoke aren’t the words coming out of her mouth. The movie tries to hide this by keeping her face pretty far away down a poorly lit hallway in the police station, but it’s still painfully noticeable.
But as much as I can rattle on about how bad the movie can get, there are some pretty good moments that save it.
Give the marketing team some serious credit, the trailer gives almost nothing away. The most prominent scenes in the trailer take place in unassuming locations and it’s impossible to know just where the movie is going to go, making it pretty unpredictable in the long run. At least, for my tastes.
I recall one very brief, but really powerful moment where Brea and John are sitting on the couch together, cuddled in each other’s arms. I forget the particulars that lead up to the line, but Patton’s line is a simple, “I love you.” But she says it so softly and the look in her eyes makes her seem so vulnerable. This is after we learned about her near-pointless backstory of being in another relationship and possibly not being ready to take the next step with John, so that single line and the way Patton delivers it was surprisingly powerful.
If paper thin characters were the worst that this movie offered by way of only the characters, then this would have almost been acceptable. However, we have the most annoying character in the movie, Darren (Laz Alonzo). Dear fucking God, I couldn’t wait for him to die. He ogles women right in front of his wife, Malia (Roselyn Sanchez), who was seriously sick of his bullshit too, ruins birthday surprises for Brea from John, intrudes on Brea and John settling in to the house a day early, not even knocking or ringing the doorbell as an act of every day common courtesy from well-adjusted human beings, as well as being a drug addict, and blaming other people for his problems and taking zero responsibility for his actions… man, the moment Darren got axed off, I was more than thrilled to know that I was never going to see him again in this picture.
Sadly, Patton isn’t my favorite person in this movie. That distinction goes to Pyle. For one thing, her intro scene is pure bad-assery. Coming in from a squad car, hand on her side-arm, staring razor thin daggers at the bikers harassing Brea and John, that woman put that resting bitch face to scary use and I absolutely loved it. I know her character is pretty thin too, but like most everyone else, she has such a commanding presence on screen that I am both giddy with excitement to see what she’s about to do and terrified of being on her bad side. Seriously, James Cameron, you should have hired Pyle to be your new Terminator.
Overall, I would say that this movie is definitely not good. In fact, if anyone were to express how they thought it was a bad movie, I would find it pretty difficult to argue. But for my part, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy a few things. Patton does well, despite her character’s poor development. Hell, most of the actors are charismatic to work through the lack of proverbial meat to chew on, especially Pyle, who steals the show every time she’s on screen. But there is a lot that this movie does that annoys the crap out of me. Gratuitous flaunting of Patton’s body, Darren as a character, tropes that one would find in a bad horror flick, and generally dumb decision-making throughout the movie. It’s a great topic to tackle, sex-trafficking, but the movie we get to back it up is pretty messy and not very smart about its approach. As a recommendation… I say, viewer beware. I don’t think it’s awful, but your safest bet would be wait for a rental. If you want to see it in theaters, go for a matinee screening or a discount day, so if you end up not liking it, you can take comfort in that you didn’t spend too much on it.
My honest rating for TRAFFIK: 3/5