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Traffic (2000)

A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron's wife attempts to carry on the family business.

Director:

Steven Soderbergh

Writers:

Simon Moore (miniseries Traffik), Stephen Gaghan (screenplay)
Reviews
Popularity
1,998 ( 215)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Benicio Del Toro ... Javier Rodriguez
Jacob Vargas ... Manolo Sanchez
Andrew Chavez Andrew Chavez ... Desert Truck Driver
Michael Saucedo ... Desert Truck Driver
Tomas Milian ... General Arturo Salazar
Jose Yenque ... Salazar Soldier / The Torturer
Emilio Rivera ... Salazar Soldier #2
Michael O'Neill ... Lawyer Rodman
Michael Douglas ... Robert Wakefield
Russell G. Jones ... Clerk
Lorene Hetherington Lorene Hetherington ... State Capitol Reporter #1
Eric Collins Eric Collins ... State Capitol Reporter #2
Beau Holden ... DEA Agent - CalTrans
Peter Stader Peter Stader ... DEA Agent - CalTrans
James Lew ... DEA Agent - CalTrans
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Storyline

An intertwined drama about the United States' war on drugs, seen through the eyes of a once conservative judge, now newly-appointed drug czar, his heroin-addicted daughter, two DEA agents, a jailed drug kingpin's wife, and a Mexican cop who begins to question his boss's motives.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It's a dirty, dirty war! And no one comes away clean See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive drug content, strong language, violence and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Mexico | Germany

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

5 January 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Traffik See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$48,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$184,725, 31 December 2000

Gross USA:

$124,115,725

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$207,515,725
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (rough cut)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

[1:31:06]One of the agents says, "if you don't like it call 1-800-CRIMINAL. This is an actual telephone number of a referral service for criminal defense lawyers. See more »

Goofs

[33:00]Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez is in a bar in San Diego and he offers a cigarette to a man who then lights it. Smoking in bars has been illegal in California since 1998. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Javier Rodriguez: [in Spanish] Last night I had an ugly nightmare.
Manolo Sanchez: [in Spanish] Oh yeah? What happened, man?
See more »

Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits except for the film's title in the lower left corner. See more »

Alternate Versions

Home video versions released in 2001 omit direct reference to Cincinnati Country Day school, after school officials complained about the images depicted of the student body. In the scene where Caroline is being interrogated after her arrest, the theatrical version has her answering the question "Are you in school?" with "Cincinnati Country Day." On home video, she simply answers, "yes." The camera is behind her, so her mouth isn't seen on-screen, but there is a notable pause before the next bit of dialogue. See more »

Connections

References Duel (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

Going Under (Love & Insanity Dub) - K&D Sessions
Written by Glyn Bush, Richard Whittingham and Patrick Plummer
Performed by Rockers Hi-Fi
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc./Warner Music Company
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Soderbergh splashes colors with the dash and power of a Jackson Pollock
19 January 2001 | by javaman-7See all my reviews

Traffic (2000)

Like an abstract expressionist master, Steven Soderbergh stands in the center of a canvas that stretches from Cincinnati to Tijuana. He mixes materials and splashes colors with the dash and power of a Jackson Pollock. His materials are skillful acting, lively editing, a dynamic music score, and an unflinching camera. (He did his own lensing, under a pseudonym). The artist's aim? To paint a picture of our country's drug problem.

Scripted by Stephen Gaghan, "Traffic" has its roots in a 1989 British television mini-series, "Traffik," which followed the drug trade from Pakistan to Britain. There are three loosely related stories, each with its own color coding--and as with Pollock, there is nothing random about where the paint splashes upon the canvas.

Blue hues bathe blue bloods in Cincinnati where an Ohio Supreme Court Justice (Michael Douglas) is flattered into taking a job as national drug czar, just as his bright young daughter (Erika Christensen) is seduced into addiction by her prep-school friends.

A rich golden-yellow surrounds San Diego where a comely couple (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Steven Bauer) occupy the upper links of the drug chain and spend ill-gotten cash on clothes, cars and country clubs. They are pursued by two undercover cops (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) who spend most of their screen time cooped up in a surveillance van.

In Mexico, a washed-out, burnished brown bespatters a desert of desperation as two Baja policemen (Benicio Del Toro and Jacob Vargas) pull off a major drug bust only to be themselves busted, by a sinister general (Tomas Milian) who notifies them that 'I will take over from here.' Each color signifies its own impenetrable culture, and when Douglas crosses into Mexico to meet his counterpart, we know (but he doesn't) that his fellow drug czar is really a drug lord.

The performances were exceptional, especially considering that no one was given star treatment. Much of the film was shot with existing light and Soderbergh kept the composition wide, letting the actors create their own space. Douglas was surprisingly believable as the would-be czar and bookends an Oscar-worthy year with his scruffy professor in the earlier "Wonder Boys." His real-life wife, Zeta-Jones (carrying their child), gave a quite credible performance as a society snob who turns ruthless when her status is threatened.

Other stand-outs include Christensen's drugged-out daughter, Del Toro's street smart Mexican cop and Cheadle's dedicated drug buster. In fact, there was not a weak performance in the bunch, including crucial cameos by veterans Peter Riegert and Albert Finney. Real people even play roles: Douglas's fictional drug czar confers with real-life senator Orrin Hatch, while actual customs officials relate their day-to-day drug enforcement dilemmas.

Each of the three stories ends with a glimmer of hope. But despite small battles being won, the film's verdict is that the larger war is plainly being lost. As if on cue, White House Director of Drug Policy, Barry McCaffrey, has resigned effective January 6, 2001. The real-life outgoing czar, a former general, has become a vocal supporter of increased funding for treatment programs.

Like Pollock, Soderbergh continues to stretch the boundaries of his art, as he did a dozen years ago with "sex, lies, and videotape," and more recently with the undervalued "The Limey." "Erin Brockovich" though fairly conventional by his standards, nevertheless completes a year any director would envy.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 4


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