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Traffic (2000)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  5 January 2001 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 164,709 users   Metascore: 86/100
Reviews: 866 user | 223 critic | 34 from Metacritic.com

A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron's wife attempts to carry on the family business.



(miniseries Traffik), (screenplay)
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Won 4 Oscars. Another 67 wins & 82 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Andrew Chavez ...
Desert Truck Driver
Desert Truck Driver
General Arturo Salazar
Salazar Soldier / The Torturer
Salazar Soldier #2
Lawyer Rodman
Lorene Hetherington ...
State Capitol Reporter #1
Eric Collins ...
State Capitol Reporter #2
DEA Agent - CalTrans
Peter Stader ...
DEA Agent - CalTrans
DEA Agent - CalTrans


A modern day look at America's war on drugs told through four separate stories that are connected in one way or another. A conservative judge who's just been appointed as the US drug czar learns that his teenage honor student daughter is a drug addict. A beautiful trophy wife struggles to save her wealthy husband's drug business, while two DEA agents protect a witness with inside knowledge of the spouse's business. In Mexico, a slightly corrupt, yet dedicated cop struggles with his conscience when he learns that his new boss may not be the anti-drug official he made himself out to be. Written by <MonkeyKingMA@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No One Gets Away Clean


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive drug content, strong language, violence and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

5 January 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Traffik  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$48,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$15,517,549 (USA) (5 January 2001)


$124,107,476 (USA) (6 July 2001)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


For the most part the film alternates from Mexico to Wakefield to Ayala in that order, although there are occasional variations. See more »


Francisco Flores has distinctive wounds on his left cheek and forehead when first shown in surveillance photos, but those wounds are only visible after he is tortured by General Salazar's men, long after the photos were taken. See more »


[first lines]
Javier Rodriguez: [in Spanish] Last night I had an ugly nightmare.
Manolo Sanchez: [in Spanish] Oh yeah? What happened, man?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Master of the 4-string Electric Bassius O' Phellius - Flea See more »


Referenced in Psych: Zero to Murder in Sixty Seconds (2007) See more »


Piano Sonata No. 1 In F Minor
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by Wilhelm Kempff
Courtesy of Universal International Music, BV
Under License from Universal Music Enterprise
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Soderbergh splashes colors with the dash and power of a Jackson Pollock
19 January 2001 | by (Lakewood, Ohio) – See all my reviews

Traffic (2000)

Like an abstract expressionist master, Steven Soderbergh stands in the center of a canvas that stretches from Cincinnati to Tijuana. He mixes materials and splashes colors with the dash and power of a Jackson Pollock. His materials are skillful acting, lively editing, a dynamic music score, and an unflinching camera. (He did his own lensing, under a pseudonym). The artist's aim? To paint a picture of our country's drug problem.

Scripted by Stephen Gaghan, "Traffic" has its roots in a 1989 British television mini-series, "Traffik," which followed the drug trade from Pakistan to Britain. There are three loosely related stories, each with its own color coding--and as with Pollock, there is nothing random about where the paint splashes upon the canvas.

Blue hues bathe blue bloods in Cincinnati where an Ohio Supreme Court Justice (Michael Douglas) is flattered into taking a job as national drug czar, just as his bright young daughter (Erika Christensen) is seduced into addiction by her prep-school friends.

A rich golden-yellow surrounds San Diego where a comely couple (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Steven Bauer) occupy the upper links of the drug chain and spend ill-gotten cash on clothes, cars and country clubs. They are pursued by two undercover cops (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) who spend most of their screen time cooped up in a surveillance van.

In Mexico, a washed-out, burnished brown bespatters a desert of desperation as two Baja policemen (Benicio Del Toro and Jacob Vargas) pull off a major drug bust only to be themselves busted, by a sinister general (Tomas Milian) who notifies them that 'I will take over from here.' Each color signifies its own impenetrable culture, and when Douglas crosses into Mexico to meet his counterpart, we know (but he doesn't) that his fellow drug czar is really a drug lord.

The performances were exceptional, especially considering that no one was given star treatment. Much of the film was shot with existing light and Soderbergh kept the composition wide, letting the actors create their own space. Douglas was surprisingly believable as the would-be czar and bookends an Oscar-worthy year with his scruffy professor in the earlier "Wonder Boys." His real-life wife, Zeta-Jones (carrying their child), gave a quite credible performance as a society snob who turns ruthless when her status is threatened.

Other stand-outs include Christensen's drugged-out daughter, Del Toro's street smart Mexican cop and Cheadle's dedicated drug buster. In fact, there was not a weak performance in the bunch, including crucial cameos by veterans Peter Riegert and Albert Finney. Real people even play roles: Douglas's fictional drug czar confers with real-life senator Orrin Hatch, while actual customs officials relate their day-to-day drug enforcement dilemmas.

Each of the three stories ends with a glimmer of hope. But despite small battles being won, the film's verdict is that the larger war is plainly being lost. As if on cue, White House Director of Drug Policy, Barry McCaffrey, has resigned effective January 6, 2001. The real-life outgoing czar, a former general, has become a vocal supporter of increased funding for treatment programs.

Like Pollock, Soderbergh continues to stretch the boundaries of his art, as he did a dozen years ago with "sex, lies, and videotape," and more recently with the undervalued "The Limey." "Erin Brockovich" though fairly conventional by his standards, nevertheless completes a year any director would envy.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 4

26 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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