Deon Taylor’s Traffik is an action thriller that follows Brea (Paula Patton) and her boyfriend John (Omar Epps) as they head out for a romantic weekend in the mountains for a birthday getaway. Unplugging after being let go from her newspaper job was just what Brea needed to clear her head, but romance takes a back seat when their friends Darren (Laz Alonso) and Malia (Roselyn) show up unannounced.
What makes things worse is that once everything begins to start moving in the right direction, the two couples are confronted by a dangerous biker gang that torment the foursome after a strange, strung out, woman named Cara (Dawn Olivieri) who chats up Brea about the Fourth of July. We discover Cara slipped her phone in Brea’s bag discovering the gang’s human trafficking operation.
“I got an email from my daughter’s school about kids being trafficed at the local mall and to be careful. I started to research it and as an African-American male I was shocked that it was happening so close to home where kids were getting snatched in public and didn’t know anything about it. The crazy part is that it’s hiding in plain sight,” said Taylor about his inspiration for the film.
This film is a directional switch from Taylor’s last film, Meet the Blacks, as Traffik shows his versatility in transitioning through genres. At first, it seems to follow the formula of most road trip/mountain getaway horror flicks, but the soundtrack, musical score and cinematography allows the audience to feel emotionally invested in what happens two these characters.
“What had to happen, is you had to have a story line with the characters to allow the audience to get to know these people and give them a breath before going to the trafficking world. We don’t follow the beats that other African-American horror films do,” said Taylor about the methodical pacing for Traffik.
Luke Goss’ portrayal Red is what The Joker would be like if he was more charming than psychotic and Missi Pyle’s character as Deputy Sally has the audience guessing which side she’s really on until the very end. Taylor said that if Luke didn’t work in the film, then the entire film didn’t work. They had long conversations about who these characters were and what was expected of each actor’s performance.
“That’s the lie, that it’s just over there, it’s just bigger here. bPeople are brought over here and taken over there or taken from Baltimore and end up in Oakland. Basically, what I did was wrap the medicine with the candy and that’s what we tired to do with the film,” said Taylor about tackling the subject of human trafficking, without turning Traffik into a glorified torture porn flick.
Sadly, no matter how horrific a movie about human trafficking depicts the events, it can never come close to what the true physical and psychological damages these women and children face. If Taylor was able to go further with that aspect of the story, than surely this movie would have gotten an NC-17 rating.
This subject matter should have the light shined on it as often as possible and for that, we must thank Taylor’s efforts. The build up took longer to get to where the story needed to go, but I’m happy it eventually got there.
Traffik opens on Friday, April 20, 2018.