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  Traffik Hey, Hey Paula
Year: 2018
Director: Deon Taylor
Stars: Paula Patton, Omar Epps, Missi Pyle, Roselyn Sanchez, Dawn Olivieri, Luke Goss, Laz Alonzo, William Fichtner, Claude Duhamel, Lorin McCraley, Stacey Arwin Raab, Lisa Hitchcock Hallstrom, Scott Anthony Leet, September D'Angelo, William W. Barbour
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Brea (Paula Patton) is a journalist who has had a bad day at the office when she was let go after protesting her big story was stolen by a fellow writer, only to learn her boss had given this assignment to him because he didn’t believe her work was good enough for her to be working at this paper. She goes out that evening with her boyfriend John (Omar Epps) and their two friends, Malia (Roselyn Sanchez) and Darren (Laz Alonzo) where things don't go quite to plan, but she takes the wealthy agent Darren's offer of a birthday stay in his holiday home. What could possibly go wrong?

How about the director bolting on a human trafficking plot to a nineteen-seventies biker movie concept and claiming it is a searing document torn from today's headlines? Not a remake of the Steven Soderbergh effort, "Inspired by a true story" claimed the opening credits, and it was accurate enough to say director Deon Taylor did read about the crime in his hometown of Sacramento, but the truth part of this film ends there as he chose this opportunity to manufacture not a tribute to the tragic victims, but instead a love letter to his star Patton, of whom he evidently framed every shot with his tongue hanging out.

Quite why a supposedly serious expose of a dreadful situation many women find themselves in felt the need to sexualise its protagonist quite this extensively was a mystery, but if you wanted something sincere and revealing along the lines of Nick Broomfield's underrated Ghosts, then you would be sorely disappointed. The first half hour at least has barely anything to do with trafficking at all and is content to show Patton in various skimpy outfits, or no outfits at all, as if to have us in the audience think, well, no wonder the bad guys wanted to traffic (or traffik) her looking like she does.

Which is doing a terrible disservice to the genuine victims and insults the plight of those who are struggling with being trapped by the gangsters who have them locked into this degradation. If Taylor had simply admitted he was making a trashy thriller from the outset this would be easier to take, but its pretensions saw him shooting himself in the foot with the enthusiasm of a man thinking with his trouser area rather than his intellect. You can just about see why he slavered over Patton to this degree, since there was barely enough plot to last the full ninety minutes anyway, hence drawn out scenes of Brea and John getting out to the country retreat and after some lasciviously-shot lovemaking having their intimacy gatecrashed by, not Taylor demanding to join in, but her two pals.

There was an altercation outside a general store on the journey where some refugees from The Born Losers try to intimidate them, but an encounter with a sex slave in the ladies' restroom sees Brea in possession of a satellite phone which has all the evidence she needs to boost her career - sorry, I mean free the other sex slaves. When the baddies, led by pop pin-up turned wanker hardman in straight to video dross Luke Goss, arrive to retake the phone, all hell breaks loose and eventually Brea is trafficked herself, so she can get a better story, sorry, I mean so she can bring the harrowing reality home to the audience. Except it doesn't, the whole affair is horribly trite and no more realistic than a Lifetime TV movie which is closely resembles, except a tad more explicit in the sex, violence and bad language department. Even as an action flick you'll have seen better, which would not be so bad, but as a message movie it slapped the victims in the face by turning their ghastly ordeals into a pat thriller. Music by Geoff Zanelli (and the worst use of Nina Simone's version of Strange Fruit ever).

[Lionsgate's DVD has a couple of plot-explaining featurettes as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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