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HUMAN TRAFFIC, 1999
Movie Review

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HUMAN TRAFFIC, MOVIE POSTERHUMAN TRAFFIC, 1999
Movie Reviews

Directed by Justin Kerrigan
Starring: John Simm, Lorraine Pilkington, Danny Dyer, Shaun Parkes, Nicola Reynolds, Dean Davies, Peter Albert, Jan Anderson
Review by Russell Wray


SYNOPSIS:

Five friends spend one lost weekend in a mix of music, love and club culture.

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REVIEW:

Human traffic was the feature debut for director Justin Kerrigan. It took him ten years to make his next film, I Know You Know, which quietly slipped under the radar. The directing experience of Human Traffic took its toll on the young director. Why is unknown but it seems a shame that we have not seen any further work from this potentially interesting film making.

The film follows a group of five friends on an ordinary weekend of raving in the nineties. They deal with problems from their parents and mundane jobs but all of this is merely there to drive the plot a long. The real story is the church of club and drug life of which they are devout followers. Human traffic faced many issues on it’s first release being criticised in promoting drugs which it does to some extent by showing the fun that the characters have whilst taking the drug. However, it also presents counter arguments for recreational drug taking but these are outweighed by the enjoyable moments.

Human traffic makes no attempt to be an artistic piece of film making like Trainspotting. It is a vehicle of nineties popular culture. Aiming to speak to the recreational drug takers of the world it is relatable to this demographic which makes the film more interesting for those still plugged into the machine of mental clarity.

The film shines in its comic moments using fantasy sequences to get into the heads of the characters. The highlights feature a news reader walking through a club and describing the process of drug dealing and a doctor pointing out the risks of ecstasy to a new comer in the scene. “Anyone who repeatedly takes ecstasy is pushing the wall between consciousness and unconsciousness”, these are the words of the doctor in the film. Human traffic attempts to explore this line but only really excels at the drug moments. The film lacks weight when it makes an attempt to be emotional. The last third of the film, when it makes an attempt to draw on “real life” , is extremely weak compared to the rest of the film. The comedown in the film’s plot is due to the fact that they ran out of money and had a third of the film yet to finish. There is a sense that the director rushed filming the last stint because he was eager to get it finished. This is not to say that it is not totally enjoyable.

The direction by Kerrigan does not particularly shine. His effective use of editing and camera movement works brilliantly to keep the eye but does not present anything new to the medium. It is clear that he is a director that has a lot to learn. He does not pay attention to cinematography or design. Although the film does not drastically suffer because of this it merely makes the film less pretentious. Where Kerrigan excels is the script. Even though the film is merely an excuse to watch people take drugs it is still interesting by its use of internal monologues and what if scenarios. Even though the dialogue here is extremely staged they do keep the attention of the audience through out. Without these there would be no film.

The male cast excels as relatable, funny and interesting characters. John Simms is brilliant as the centre piece of the film struggling with impotence. His charisma brings much more to the film. Danny Dyer is hilarious as the mentally mashed Moff and provides the only performance worthwhile in his career. This is not to say that the female actresses’ do not present as much as the men in the film but they are not given a chance to. The female characters are under developed and not featured as often as the men. This is the fault of Kerrigan who cannot write women as well as he can men.

Human traffic will not be remembered as a great piece of art. It will be remembered as a pop culture film that entertains those that are just out for a good time whether it is with the assistance of drugs or not it is still an enjoyable watch and a classic in British popular culture.

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