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2004 Roundup
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"Traffic"

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Written by Stephan Gaghan.  Based on the foreign miniseries by Simon Moore.
Starring Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle.
Release Year:  2000 

Review Date:  1/7/01 

Folks-- 

In the quest to serve the people, all feedback has been taken into account, and to the 48 folks that submitted some, I say thanks.  First and foremost of all changes is that from here on out, actual capitalization will be used in all reviews.  Also, expect a slightly shorter movie review and a slightly higher number of essays over the course of the month.  Thanks to all those that submitted new topics for the year 2001...I will try to include as many of those topics as I can!!  Profanity will return as often as is deemed necessary and once again this year, I hope to get my slack ass in motion to put up the Bellview website.

So, with all of those things in mind, we begin the year with...a new website.  I went to see a play tonight with my friend Laikisha and a few others, and Laikisha mentioned something that I needed to check out as soon as possible.  I checked it out tonight and this is all I'm gonna say to you...

http://www.doughnutman.com

'Nuff said.

"Traffic" is *not* about my profanity-laced tirades that occur at all hours of the day when I am on God's worst gift to man, the Capital Beltway.  Rather, the movie "Traffic" is about the ridiculous amount of illicit drugs that make their way from points south of the US into our beloved motherland.  If you didn't know how to correctly "cook" cocaine before this movie, don't worry:  all of the pointers are spelled out for you during the course of the movie.  The drug epic takes place mostly in three different areas:  Mexico, where street cop Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) struggles to fight crime and his countrymen while drug runners regularly try to ship cocaine via truck through the Mexican/US border patrol; San Diego, California, where a DEA cop (Don Cheadle) tries to snuff out the leader of a huge cocaine ring; and, Cincinnati, Ohio, where a US District Judge (Michael Douglas) is named as our nation's drug czar by the President to lead the effort against the war on drugs.  These three story arcs intersect over the course of the film at various points to give us the big picture of how all of these players fit in.

Oh, but it is much bigger than that, as well; this may be the film's biggest (albeit, sometimes entertaining) problem.  There are WAY too many people in this movie.  Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Albert Finney, Miguel Ferrer, and a dozen cameos by people you will recognize almost immediately or actual US government officials that make statements on Douglas' judge's agenda make for a long list of people with speaking parts in this movie.  With this in mind, there is a lot of jumping around and it is important to remember everything in order to keep up with what is happening.  Plus, a large portion of the judge's story involves his too-good-to-be-true teenage daughter (Erika Christensen) who--from her very first scene--is lighting up spoons like a damned Christmas tree.  She is freebasing day-to-night and her friends are regular drug users as well.  And, because the acting quality in this movie is so good, I was a bit disappointed to not see more of Cheadle or more of Douglas.

But, that does leave more room for Del Toro to steal the movie.  He is *good* in this movie, my friends, and what was interesting to me was that 75% of his lines are in Spanish, so his acting was, for me, limited sometimes to my reading of his subtitles!  Del Toro, though, does so much with his eyes and his casual shrug of the shoulders that he is a great joy to watch.  Admittedly, I like Del Toro so I am a little biased...but, all of his scenes make this movie worth it.  (Del Toro is also in that movie that no one saw last year, "The Way of the Gun.")

Overpopulation, though, is the movie's only problem, in my mind.  The story is excellent and it does a good job of not being too "preachy"; it just plainly tells you how it is in the world and you can take what you want from it.  I put this movie in the horror category because of the scary reality that this movie paints on the war on drugs.  Many characters in the movie use the word "pointless" to describe that war, and over the movie's 150 minutes you come to find out why.  Maybe this is also why I enjoyed Christensen's performance so much...you KNOW there have got to be thousands of kids like her in the world today and seeing one of them in action brought a lot of that home for me.

Check this one out ASAP.  It brings home the bacon!!

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09