Friday, January 12, 2007

Movie Review: Human Traffic 1 Star

Human Traffic is an affront to filmmaking, an affront to comedy and, most grievously, an affront to audiences. The press materials boast that the film is “based on the life experiences of 25-year-old director Justin Kerrigan.” This is where the movie’s problems begin (but, by no means, end). Not that the life experiences of a 25-year-old are invalid, but without distance and reflection, the dramatization of those experiences may possess a sense of urgency, but feel nonetheless empty.

However, the life experiences from which Justin Kerrigan draws are merely empty, the world of his film is marginal at best and the characters, petulant. Any sense of urgency is eroded by a lack of connection with the humanity of any of the characters as they are portrayed. The few moments of poignancy are intruded upon by Kerrigan’s pretentious visual style, borrowed from every music video ever made, Spike Lee Nike commercials and the Orson segments from Mork & Mindy.

There is no story, just a slice-of-life of a half-dozen club kids as they get off of work on Friday and party through the weekend. The protagonist, for lack of a better word, is Jip (John Simm), a hipper-than-thou lout with performance anxiety. His friends are Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington), who has given up on men, Koop (Shaun Parkes), a DJ-wannabe whose girlfriend Nina’s flirtations with other men drive him into a jealous funk, Nina (Nicola Reynolds) herself and twenty-year-old Moff (Danny Dyer) who still lives at home, refuses to get a job or go to school, and instead, just gets high. Which is mostly what this movie is about, but not in any interesting sort of way.

Billed a comedy, Human Traffic is funny in that it’s funny someone would bill it as a comedy. Hipster cleverspeak and pop culture references are no substitution for jokes, no matter how many bad independent filmmakers try to tell you so. And hackneyed dope humor is not only hackneyed, it’s also very Cheech and Chong of you, minus the funny.

Human Traffic was apparently a big hit in England, but the Britons are not known for their taste, as evidenced by boiled meat and the popularity of Ab Fab.

Every nascent screenwriter of twenty has written a screenplay “based on his/her life experiences,” a script that maybe didn’t attempt to define a generation, but least tried to be about the things that generation cared about. Thankfully, most of those screenplays were placed in a desk drawer, never to see the light of day again. If only that had been Human Traffic’s destiny, hundreds of feet of film stock could have been rescued.

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