Who knew that a Slurpee could be so dangerous?
Brea certainly didn’t. Sure, she knew that Slurpees are not exactly healthy. If you subsisted solely on a steady diet of Slurpees, you might run into certain caloric and nutritional problems, not to mention putting you at greater risk for brain freeze. But while Slurpees may not be good for you, they’re not out to murder you.
Or are they?
Maybe Brea should’ve begun to suspect the Slurpee’s homocidal intentions when she first bought it. She and her boyfriend, John, are off for a lovely weekend getaway at a palatial home somewhere in the California mountains. Perhaps the Slurpee—jealous that its home was simply a plastic cup, lacking granite countertops, big-screen TVs and tastefully arranged sectionals—is out for revenge from the get-go.
Whatever the beverage’s motives, it spills all over Brea when she runs into another customer at a convenience store where they’ve stopped. That other customer, a polite bald man with a vaguely British accent, offers to refill her Slushee cup and pay for her stuff. Brea gratefully accepts that offer and makes a beeline for the bathroom to clean up.
But there she runs into (though not as literally) another customer, a woman dressed in a way that would make a Las Vegas dancer blush. The woman stares at Brea carefully, as if deciding whether to say something or not. Finally, she does.
“It feels a bit like the Fourth of July, right?” she says. But before she can explain herself, her, um, escort barges into the woman’s bathroom and pulls the lady away.
Brea doesn’t know it yet, but that little encounter—all because of a cantankerous Slurpee—will do more than provide an anecdote for the weekend. It just might impact whether she, and a bunch of other people, ever see another one.
The woman whom Brea meets is, we learn, a victim of a sex trafficking ring. She secretly drops a phone in Brea’s bag; when Brea opens it, she finds pictures of many women, all of whom have apparently been abducted and obviously beaten.
Brea tries to bring this horrific revelation out into the open. She calls the local sheriff’s office, for instance. And when that same mysterious woman eventually shows up at the house where she and John are staying, Brea encourages the woman to come inside so that they can help her. Things like this aren’t so easily solved, of course. But Brea sure tries to help these victimized women, both in this moment and in those that follow.
Brea’s boyfriend, John, seems like a good guy, too. He loves Brea deeply and wants to marry her, even giving her a car for her birthday. (A car that he rebuilt himself, incidentally.) . And when things go south (and boy, do they go south), he risks his life for her.
He’s not alone in risking much for others, though. John’s rich friend, Darren, is kind of a jerk throughout most of his screentime. But when the traffickers come to the house to get their phone—using Darren’s newly captured girlfriend, Malia, as leverage—Darren puts his life on the line to negotiate her release as well as to protect Brea and John.
Elsewhere, Brea and John also get help from a kindly stranger. He welcomes these two (now) bleeding strangers into his house, allows them to use his phone and to send an SOS email from his computer. (He pays dearly for his kindness, alas.)
The stranger who helps Brea and John is apparently a fan of religious programming. We see a preacher on the television screen, exhorting viewers as a cross glows in the background.
John wants to marry Brea, but they’re certainly not saving themselves for their wedding night. The sex she and John have is more intimated than shown. They kiss passionately, but the camera tends to focus on the couple’s hands and faces more than their bodies.
We see them intimately engaged a handful of times, including in the car on the way up to their weekend retreat and in the home’s pool once they get there. The camera very briefly reveals her breasts, as well as lingering shots of her wearing an unbuttoned shirt with nothing on underneath. Her uncovered rear is also visible, and she often wears skimpy underwear (including wearing it to the pool), where it’s implied that her makeshift swimming suit eventually gets removed. (We see her shoulders sans bra straps). At one point, Brea submerges completely in the pool, suggesting perhaps more sexual activity under the water.
Brea dresses rather sultrily at other junctures, purposefully exposing lace undergarments when she’s out and about. She and friend Malia wear cleavage-exposing gowns and outfits. And when the action ratchets up, her skimpy top exposes about as much shoulder and cleavage as possible without actually slipping off.
The woman Brea meets in the bathroom wears a top that reveals the middle, lengthwise, of her entire torso. She’s also wearing very short-shorts. Several women are shown in provocative profile pictures, apparently intended for would-be customers. Other trafficked women are also dressed (forcibly so, we assume) in outfits that reveal a great deal of skin and leave little to the imagination. One woman dances provocatively at a nightclub before she’s lured away. At least one victim is forcibly kissed, and one trafficking ringleader reminds his lackeys that the women are “product,” not intended for said lackeys’ own sexual gratification.
Darren brags to John about how many women he’s been intimate with in the house pool. It’s revealed that John and Malia had an affair before John met Brea. (We hear some ribald comments referencing bits of anatomy.) Darren flirts with a waitress during a fancy dinner. (“I can look but I can’t touch, right baby?” he says to his girlfriend.)
Brea is sexually assaulted by one of her captors after being kidnapped. The assault is suggested rather than shown explicitly, but viewers get a pretty clear impression of what’s likely happening in the attack. Other trafficking victims sport terrible wounds: Bruises, black eyes and blood from old and new cuts are present on nearly all of them, even in photos where the women are posing provocatively for customers.
Two people are, essentially, executed via bullets to the head. (One victims is repeatedly stabbed, too, before the coup de grâce is delivered.) Another has part of his head gorily blown off by a shotgun blast. (Blood sprays on the wall behind.) A few others are shot and killed. A man gets stabbed in the neck with a nail. Another guy is skewered several times with syringes. One character suffers a knife wound and shotgun wound, eventually succumbing to his injuries.
John gets into an altercation with some bikers at a gas station. He punches one in the face, and the others join in to create a brief, violent scrum. Later, one of the bikers follows John and Brea’s classic Chevy, resulting in a mountain-bound car chase. John eventually swerves to a stop, sending both bike and rider skidding off the road.
Folks are threatened at gunpoint. People are thwacked with pieces of wood.
Nearly 65 f-words and more than a dozen s-words. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch” and “h— multiple times. God’s name is abused in about a dozen instances.
After Malia apparently leaves him, Darren begins drinking whiskey (or something like it) straight from the bottle. When he later suggests doing something rash, John accuses him of being too “high” to know what he’s doing. Multiple scenes show other characters quaffing wine as well.
Traffickers inject Brea and others with some sort of drug that one refers to as “lunch.” The substance apparently incapacitates them. (That drug is later used on one of the traffickers.)
Bikers get angry for, they say, being negatively stereotyped. Never mind that they absolutely vindicate those negative stereotypes of bikers as violent, dangerous hooligans later on.
Traffik, for all of its unapologetically C-movie trappings, is a film with a message: Human trafficking is a real, terrible issue. The film closes with staggering statistics, reporting that some 1.9 million victims are sexually trafficked in the United States alone each year, and upwards of 21 million are trafficked worldwide. For star Paula Patton, the production was sobering.
“I didn’t really know much about it at all to be honest with you,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I knew it existed. I did not know to what degree. My interest in the project really came from wanting to be a part of something that would be an entertaining piece that would be exciting to make and challenging. What was the added value was learning and discovering this world.”
Alas, it takes more than a worthy message to make a worthwhile movie.
Traffik may have had an important destination in mind. But—fittingly for its title—it gets seriously stuck along the way. Subplots pop up and then apparently vanish in a haze of blood and bad writing. Characters do very strange things for absolutely no apparent reason. For instance, John purposefully moves his classic Chevy out of the home’s palatial driveway to points unknown—apparently to eliminate the opportunity for an easy getaway in case the home’s invaded by, I dunno, human traffickers. And Brea—typing out a wildly rushed email pleading for help and rescue—attaches roughly 500 photos to that email. Perhaps attachments work differently in her world, but man, even attaching one photo takes some time in mine. Attaching dozens seems like overkill, especially when you’re trying to avoid actual killers. (Brea’s affinity for attachments costs three people and one computer their respective existences.)
And we haven’t even started about talking the plethora of Plugged In-style concerns this movie has, from its violence to its language to its drinking to its sexual content. For a movie that takes such strong issue with the sexual exploitation of women, Traffik sure seems to exploit Paula Patton quite a bit. Her bloodied face and barely-hanging-on top remind me of many an exploitative movie poster, where a victimized, cleavage-baring damsel in distress cringes helplessly and alluringly in front of a swamp monster or giant spider.
Traffik. Ugh. I’d rather be in Los Angeles during rush hour.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.