Human Traffic Movie Review
Somewhere between the cheery comedic teen angst of a Brat Pack movie and the stylishly dingy, drug-ravaged night life of "Trainspotting," you'll find the fresh-faced, fun-loving, Ecstasy-dropping, Welsh weekend warriors that populate the party-hardy world of "Human Traffic."
A capricious and energetic, rave-flavored tour through a bouncy Friday-Saturday-Sunday of dance and romance in the lives of five club-hopping pals on the cusp of their 20s, this lightweight snapshot of edgy Y2K youth culture has nothing new to say about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- but it says that nothing with irresistibly enthusiastic effervescence.
The story is narrated with hyperactive chirp by Jip (John Simms), a soft-featured Tim Roth look-alike who blows off steam from his weekdays in retail hell by getting squiffy with his mates and dancing the night away.
His entourage includes his best gal pal Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington), a tangy "full-on club minx" with a mane of out-of-control curls and a secret jones for Jip; aimless stoner Moff (Danny Dyer); African-Anglo Koop (Shaun Parkes), a spastic record store DJ with a jealous streak; and Koop's flirty girlfriend Nina (Nicola Reynolds), who bolts from her McJob in a fantasy-embellished early scene that sets the movie's anti-establishment mood.
Written and directed by 25-year-old Justin Kerrigan, a recent Welsh film school grad who has won a handful of festival awards, "Human Traffic" accompanies this group from their day jobs (hate them!) through their club-hopping nights in a style that apes from a dozen sources (notably, "Trainspotting" and early MTV) without feeling unoriginal.
The plot is simple stuff -- each character has some banal comedic conflict (Jip is experiencing sexual performance problems, Lulu is convinced she's a schmuck magnet, etc.) easily resolved through their memorable weekend of youthful excess (ecstasy is unabashedly endorsed). But that hardly matters because "Human Traffic" isn't about story, per se. It's about capturing that all-too-brief moment of devil-may-care lifestyle that people remember forever as the best time of their lives.
Kerrigan makes the audience feel like a part of the partying with club-mix direction that borrows its vivacity from the packed night-club dance floors where part of the film takes place (the 46-song soundtrack is so fantastically juiced it's hard not to get up and dance in the aisles). He delights in mischievous Brit-com glimpses into the club kids' home lives (Jip tries to turn his family off with a remote control and a dinner with Lulu's prim family is subtitled with what everyone at the table is really thinking).
Kerrigan's storytelling technique may be 90-percent derivative -- he is fresh from film school, so cut him a some slack -- but the movie's impish appeal makes it seem fresh, and his charismatic, very Welsh characters are just a gas to hang around with for a couple hours.
When someone in Hollywood decides to rip off "Human Traffic" -- and they will -- it will undoubtedly become homogenized with a slapped-together PG-13 script, an interchangeable Gap model cast and a soundtrack full of radio-friendly vanilla teen-pop in place of this picture's adrenaline-overdrive beat-mix.
But 30 years from now the original "Human Traffic" will still be an ambrosial -- if innocuous -- movie that people can point to and say "that's what it was like to be young in the year 2000."