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Traffic is like a cinematic nesting doll. Each scene introduces another deeper scene with an even more fascinating character. Each of these startlingly realistic people is then portrayed by riveting actor after riveting actor. What a great movie.

Now at over two hours of evolving plot scenarios of each story-ette, you'll feel, at times, a tad sedated. In fact, a primetime- drug documentary-when's- it -gonna-end fog may overcome you, but stick with it. Traffic has many subtle rewards.

As each layer peels into the next, god-like director, Steven (the hits just keep-a -comin) Soderbergh's, unique if sometimes off style-approach draws you in deeper and deeper- like an addiction. The players are so three-dimensional that it's more like voyeurism or a twisted version of Real World than a scripted film.

Story goes...Mexican cop Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio "I'm here baby" Del Toro) is starting to feel a touch of corruption flowing like soft-serve ice cream, stuck on serve, into his hometown (that hot, broke, tattling town-o-tourists mecca, Tijuana). The two top Mexie drug cartels are warring against each other for control of Baja California. Who can he trust? Who's on the take? Who works for whom? Who's out for his full order of nachos supreme? Everyone it seems.

Then the movie shows us interwoven lives—lives connected in different parts of Mexico and America, all with the common element of drug trafficking. And how the trafficking it is affecting each of their lives.

Cut To: A spoiled housewife, Helena Ayala ( A very pregnant Catherine "Oy, my achin' freakin' back-can you be a doll and get me a double corned beef sandwich from the catering table" Zeta-Jones) discovers her husband's line of business is not all Krispy Kreme & Starbucks Coffee portfolio choices. She's faced with all the ugly laundered truths. Her husband has been arrested. Appears he's a big quasi Escobar wannabe. Upon the news of his arrest, her hoity toity-Rodeo Drive shopping-Louis Vitton designed- SUV- driving friends become (surprise) fair weather conversation snorters and desert her faster then liposuction takes away those multiple canapés and Chateaubriands of the holidays... And her biggest blow? Credit card after credit card is gone- even her beloved Macy's card had been revoked! What's a girl to do? Forget the father of her children and take in his consigliary Arnie (Dennis "I'm sorry, Meg who?" Quaid)? Get a minimum wage job at the Piggly Wiggly baggin' her exfriend's Deli style cappacio and lead-free mineral water? Or buck up and learn the trafficking biz? Hmm, maybe.

Cut To: An Ohio mansion filled with ivy league-ettes snorting and cooking varieties of blow, pubescent style fu**ing and top shelf drink swillin'. One of the debutante druggies, Caroline ( Erika Christensen), is the daughter of the newly appointed US drug czar Robert Wakefield (Michael "Sure, I'm Nostferatu-ing facially, but I still got a hot cuchiass" Douglas). Daddy's got a colossal case of denial and daughter's got a big old case of the Shanghai shakes. Heroin will do that to a gal, I'm told.

Cut To: The noble law enforcers who battle the revolving-door judicial system.
Day in, day out, these guys play catch and release, like a bad cable fishing show... Officers Gordon (Don "Megatalent" Cheadle) and Castro ( Luiz -you'll recognize him instantly- Guzman). They bust Ms. Country Club Helena's husband's affiliate and the drug ring circus begins. Creepy hitmen show up. Wire taps are put in strange places.

The stories connect and continually intertwine till each reveals its plot.

Let's talk talented salsa beefcake for a moment...Benicio Del Toro, a pet actor/mansteak here at Blunt Review, will be up for awards galore if I make my guess. What a brilliant actor. Okay, he's a bit chimichanga- with- a- side- of refried beans- porked out in this...But so was Kevin Spacey circa 1990, before GQ got a hold of him. Hollywood will reshape and remold him into their next leading man. Ben will have trainers and stylists, and, by this time next year, he will look like a neuAnglo-Armani wearing- pugilist - manmeat portion of Antonio Banderas with darker circles under his eyes. For now, Del Toro is still a bit shaggy-edged, a touch smelly looking-and shines for it. He was in the semi-sleeper Way of the Gun. And he's in two other flicks presently, Snatch and The Pledge. Bennie also sits in everyone's video collection in
Usual Suspects—yep, the garbling oddity, Fenster. Wanna know more of his impeccable work? Click here for full details. (I keep hearing that song, El Matador, when I see this big beautiful guy...)

Sadly, it would take about eight thousand words to give each actor his due here. Simply, see this movie. It's not for everyone. It's realistic and at times overtly blunt in its drug scene portrayals— be warned NSYNC fans. Traffic is a true film lover's film. Intelligent, well acted and unique.

Film and acting students will be viewing this one for years to come. No Hollywood formula here kiddies! Enjoy.

Snack Recommendation: Taco Bell and fresh lemonade.

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Steven Bauer, Benjamin Bratt, James Brolin, Erika Christensen, Clifton Collins Jr., Majandra Delfino, Miguel Ferrer, Albert Finney, Topher Grace, Luis Guzman, Amy Irving, Tomas Milian, Marisol Padilla Sanchez, and Jacob Vargas.

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh


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