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Human Traffic

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Human Traffic

Starring: John Simm, Nicola Reynolds
Director: Justin Kerrigan
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: May 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Lorraine Pilkington, Danny Dyer, Shaun Parkes

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

What do you say when you leave work on Friday afternoon? "Have a nice weekend." Right? Do you mean it? Maybe...that is if you even remember what you said. But if the five cats in Justin Kerrigan's first feature film "Human Traffic" heard you wish them a "nice" weekend, they'd probably roll on the floor with laughter, because "nice" is about the last thing they want when they quit their stupefyingly boring jobs. These guys and gals, all in their early twenties, are going to live during those forty-eight hours. They're going to forget the disapproval of their bosses at the fast food joint and the jeans store and the flak they'd get from their parents if indeed their folks even cared. As Jip, the principal character and the one who mostly likely stands in for the writer-director, "All that exists now is clubs, drugs, pubs and parties...I'm gonna blow steam out of my head like a screaming kettle....We're gonna get more spaced out than Neil Armstrong ever did. Anything could happen. For four of the five kids on one particular weekend in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, this weekend is fun like no other. For Jip (John Simm) and his frizzy blonde friend Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington) something really big goes down.

"Human Traffic" is the story of one weekend in the lives of five young people who meet regularly from Friday eve through Sunday and who get their kicks from solitary probing of web sites or sitting passively in the movie theaters like us critics, but from rave parties that they attend while high on the drug Ecstasy. You'll never think of coal miners again since, after all, you don't have to be in swinging London or hip New York to be part of the weekend madness. The groovy pubs of Wales will do just fine.

Kerrigan, who wrote the script to this partly surreal adventure two years ago when he was twenty-three, has lived the scene and knows whereof he speaks. He opens up the movie by having a few of these characters tell us something about their lives. Nina (Nicola Reynolds) relates that she was turned down by her college because she gave the wrong answer to the interviewer who asked why she was interested in philosophy. Jip sells jeans, but the boss is on his back --and Kerrigan means to show that concept quite literally, as portrayed by cinematographer David Bennett. The only one enjoys what he's going during the week is Koop (Shaun Parkes), a vinyl freak that makes even Jack Black's character Barry (from Stephen Frears's "High Fidelity") look like a square. When Koop flips a record onto the turntable, the twenty-something customers dig the beat and dance up a storm.

"Human Traffic" follows the five for two days as they make the rounds of the pubs, the rave clubs, their parents' homes. While there is no real plot and much of the dialogue is improvised by these largely unknown performers, some of the scenes are touching while most will draw at least a smile form the youthful, targeted audience. The Ecstasy-popping comes with a price, of course. On Sunday the party animals are so down, so paranoid, that they can't even look one another in the eye. The paranoid Koop doesn't even need drugs to conclude that his bird, Nina, is flirting with every man in sight.

"Human Traffic" is neither pro- nor anti-drug, laying out both sides of the coin. When these guys are high, they're in the clouds, and the regularly surreal Justin Kerrigan puts them there--again, literally. When Moff (Danny Dyer), the youngest in the group, is coming down from his high, he is surrounded by his parents and grandmother at Sunday dinner as they tut-tut about Cardiff's callow: "They have no discipline: they have no morality." As Moff targets each of the adults with his TV remote control device hitting the forward and back buttons rapidly, he sees them repeating their blather over and over to a rollickingly funny effect.

"Human Traffic" has been compared to "Trainspotting," but this association is at best superficial. We can understand every word that Kerrigan's characters say without subtitles, there are no bathroom jokes, and we never see any of the people actually taking the drugs or throwing up. This is a fun buddy movie that looks more like Kerrigan's revenge for being rejected by every film school to which he applied--at which point he took odd jobs for a year until he was finally admitted. Kerrigan utilizes the cinema for what the big screen is intended: a visual far more than literary delight. "Human Traffic" proves that amateur actors using a loose script can do just fine given a director's quixotic camerawork and fertile imagination. Kerrigan gives new meaning to the term "rave review."

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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