Traffic

  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2000

Common Sense Media says

Tons of drug use, violence, and depressing stories.
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2000

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive role models

Though many of the main characters in Traffic are ruthless and amoral, two DEA agents uphold the law passionately. The cast boasts very good racial and ethnic diversity, with many main characters of color.

Violence

Many, many scenes of violence, including gory point-blank shootings of characters we've grown to know, hideous and extended torture scenes (most of the blows occur offscreen), a car explosion, a young character has a seizure and stops breathing, a pregnant woman is threatened if she won't do cocaine, a man threatens to murder a young boy, and so on.

Sex

Very explicit situations, including an underage girl who prostitutes herself for drugs, we see a man thrusting forcefully on top of her as we see him nude from the rear in a sleazy hotel room. Teens discuss having sex and doing heroin as they climax together.

Language

Dozens of uses of "f--k" and "s--t," in Spanish and English.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Many scenes of people transporting, attempting to steal, and doing various drugs. Characters onscreen snort cocaine, smoke marijuana, smoke and shoot heroin. We see heroin users cook their drugs in a spoon and then inject them, graphically. A visibly pregnant woman is almost forced to do cocaine under pain of death.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that drug abuse, drug smuggling, and the United States' war on drugs are the central themes of Traffic, a movie that condemns instead of glamorizes drugs yet graphically shows scenes of users doing drugs and drug-related violence. The former is perhaps most disturbing in several scenes of teenagers having afterschool parties in their parent-less homes, smoking pot, drinking, taking pills and (eventually) smoking heroin. One teen has an overdose and stops breathing. Two young characters eventually take to shooting heroin; all of this is graphically depicted onscreen. In addition to the disturbing sexual scenes there are numerous scenes of brutal, gory violence: point-blank shootings, torture, execution-style murder, a scary guy threatens a pregnant woman with the murder of her young child, and so on. Traffic is very strong stuff and may make drugs look appealing to teens; watch with kids if they watch at all.

Parents say

Kids say

Not yet rated
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What's the story?

In TRAFFIC, a hard-line judge is selected as the president's new general in the war on drugs. Front-line cops in Mexico and the US go after the small-time distributors and try to make cases against the sources of the drugs. A pampered wife, pregnant with her second child, finds out that her husband's legitimate businesses are just a front for his real import -- cocaine. And the judge's teenage daughter becomes a heroin addict.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Director Steven Soderbergh ably keeps these stories on track, cutting back and forth to let them provide context and contrast for each other, and using different color palettes to help keep them straight. There are also some good lines. But despite a first-rate all-star cast, the stories never connect or illuminate.

Overall, the move feels flat and a little formulaic, almost like one of those old Dragnet episodes about the dangers of drugs. The script moves the characters around like chess pieces. Packing so many stories in so little time requires a lot of narrative short-cuts like coincidences and stereotypes. The Catherine Zeta Jones character switches from innocent and doe-eyed to commanding and vicious faster than you can say "Michael Corleone." Individual scenes have some tension and some fine performances (especially by Benecio del Toro and Don Cheadle as cops), but the overall impact is muted.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about drugs, both their own views on individual drug use and the impact that the drug business has on the community and the country. Did the movie make you feel differently about the role that illegal drugs play in the lives of people around us? When the judge asks the staff for new ideas, the response is silence. What should the next person to hold the anti-drug czar job do?

  • What is the effect of the violence in this film? Does it underscore the film's messages or is it gratuitous?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 27, 2000
DVD release date:November 4, 2002
Cast:Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas
Director:Steven Soderbergh
Studio:USA Films
Genre:Drama
Run time:147 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:extensive drug use, violence, sex, and language

This review of Traffic was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written bytwigster April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Very Difficult to Watch...

but certainly worth seeing. The stories, sometimes heartbreaking, other times gruesome, each have a lesson, but it takes some thought to find the good (if any...). This movie made me cry terribly because it portrayed (the very frightening) destruction of a family. In the end, director Steven Soderbergh manages to tie up loose ends and show the dramatic effect the drug trade has on society.

Parent of a 6 year old Written bymadsmooney1214 September 16, 2012
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

traffic

Families can talk about drugs, both their own views on individual drug use and the impact that the drug business has on the community and the country. As teenagers what they think about the way the judge and his wife responded to his daughter's drug use, and about his decision at the end of the movie. Was it the right one? Why did the drug dealer's wife decide to become involved in his business? Did the movie make you feel differently about the role that illegal drugs play in the lives of people around us? When the judge asks the staff for new ideas, the response is silence. What should the next person to hold the anti-drug czar job do?

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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