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With: John Simm, Lorraine Pilkington, Shaun Parkes, Danny Dyer, Nicola Reynolds, Dean Davies, Peter Albert, Jan Anderson
Written by: Justin Kerrigan
Directed by: Justin Kerrigan
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive drug content and language, and for some strong sexuality
Running Time: 84
Date: 06/04/1999

Human Traffic (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

I Want a New Drug

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For sixteen or eighteen years your parents have done a good job raising you and teaching you right from wrong. But now it's time to go out and test what they've told you, to continue your learning in a new and more hands-on way. Many good films have been made about this intense experimentation, where young and full-of-beans characters try and learn what they're all about and how far they can go. The Welsh Human Traffic, directed by Justin Kerrigan (See Interview) is the latest, and by virtue of the fact that it seems to have little plot and no message, it earns a place of its own.

Whether you are currently going through this trial, or if you've made it through and look back upon your own trial with pleasure, Human Traffic will be a lot of fun. It has that supernova look and feel that Trainspotting (1996) captured so well, but this movie has less on its mind. It just wants to offer us a no-frills cross-section of one chemical-induced weekend.

The five friends in the story are: Jip (John Simm), LuLu (Lorraine Pilkington), Koop (Shaun Parkes), Nina (Nicola Reynolds), Moff (Danny Dyer), and Lee (Dean Davies). These are all first time actors who are all thoroughly tested in the field (if you know what I mean and I think you do). They're all assigned simple one-line "problems" that must be overcome by the film's end, and are not too earth-shattering to begin with. Jip has a case of "Mr. Floppy" (if you know what I mean and I think you do), LuLu has just broken up with her boyfriend and may be in love with Jip, Koop is very jealous of his girlfriend Nina, who has just quit her job. Moff is just a little bit unstable, and Lee is a young teenager (Nina's brother) who is going on his first Night on the Town.

These problems are largely ignored during the course of the film. The most important things are music, dancing, movies, and a few words of wisdom from the late, great U.S. comedian Bill Hicks. The movie starts showing some of the horrible jobs these twentysomethings hold down: clothing store, fast-food joint, record store, etc. Friday night comes along, and it's out on the town; first to a club, and then a house party. The last bit of the movie deals with the Saturday night-Sunday morning Comedown.

The characters take a lot of drugs, and the pros and cons of drugs are talked about freely. According to the movie, though, the pros outweigh the cons... at least if you're young and still experimenting with life. There's one daring sequence that describes how lovely and comfortable and easy everything feels while on Ecstasy. Another hilarious fantasy sequence on "Spliff Politics" deals with the art of talking to someone smoking weed in such a way that they'll offer you a hit. The sequence is narrated by a kind of game-show announcer, charting the progress of the participants. Some people may be uncomfortable with this seemingly pro-drug movie, but I think people who are "influenced" by it would have to have already been on the wrong road.

As a movie junkie myself, I was more pumped up by the constant movie-talk and movie references. Movie posters strewn about all the various rooms include: The Shining (1980), Scarface (1983), Blue Velvet (1986), Drugstore Cowboy (1989), New Jack City (1990), and Lost Highway (1997). Conversational riffs cover Taxi Driver (1976), the Star Wars movies, Clerks (1994), and Trainspotting itself. Of course, the music is great, too, and dancing in a film always provides an easy and interactive visual motif.

Human Traffic wants to be the final word on the drugs of today's youth, and I suppose it is. But the important thing is that the effect of taking drugs at all, any kind of drug, is conveyed successfully. This is not a movie like Trainspotting that can make you sick if you even think about drugs. Other than that, it doesn't really have much to say. Yet, it comes alive and resonates, even for folks other than its intended audience.

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