Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Human Traffic

By Marc Savlov

JUNE 12, 2000: 

D: Justin Kerrigan; with John Simm, Lorraine Pilkington, Shaun Parkes, Nicola Reynolds, Danny Dyer, Dean Davies. (R, 84 min.)

"The weekend has landed" declares the tagline to this 1999 British tale of debauched Welsh clubgoers searching for the perfect night out, but it's less a smooth flight than a turbulence-battered tree-skim that barely grazes the heads of the U.K.'s Ecstasy-mad youth culture. There's much about Human Traffic to enjoy: With his first film, 25-year-old director Kerrigan has nailed what it's like to be young, bored, and high in a country whose weekend economics are more than ever fueled by the throngs of Friday-night clubheads who blag their way into pricey clubs like Moneypenny's and Ministry of Sound, all in the name of a few hours of pilled-out bliss and a new Roni Size dubplate to keep the dance floor hopping. And while Kerrigan's film is a slight, ephemeral thing that tarries in your mind about as long as a decent hangover, it nearly makes up for its willful lack of serious narrative with an ingratiating overabundance of style. There's Jipp (Simm), a manic, friendly fellow who spends his days worrying about his prostitute mother and his own, more pressing, case of "Mr. Floppy"; Lulu (Pilkington), a radiant, curly-haired blond bombshell who harbors a secret crush on longtime best mate Jipp; Jipp's pal Koop (Parkes), a DJ-wannabe and record store employee who's all mad, spliffy grins and crazed drum 'n' bass rhythms; Koop's girlfriend Nina (Reynolds), who suffers in an intensely awful McJob; and Moff (Dyer), a transplanted Cockney son of the local police chief who's prone to post-comedown bedroom wanks and overzealous drug intake. As far as the plot, the five of them get high, go out, make out, and at one point come up with an altogether more interesting take on the British national anthem. And that's about it, although the film wisely does not shy away from the ickily abrupt comedown doldrums. In short, it's a 24-hour-party-people travelogue, entertaining enough to grab your eyes (and ears ­ the film plays out beneath a top-notch soundtrack featuring everyone from Orbital to Fatboy Slim to Public Enemy and beyond) but less memorable than it may at first appear. Kerrigan wears his influences proudly; stylistic echoes of Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Danny Boyle, and P.T. Anderson abound in virtually every scene, and though this sort of cinematic petty thievery can, at times, overwhelm Kerrigan's slight storyline, his sheer wealth of clubby details (famous DJ Carl Cox as a gravelly club owner, the Primal Scream concert T hanging over a character's bedpost, the deadly silent drive home at the end of the night) nearly make up for what the film lacks in solid storytelling. (Many detractors have taken to calling the film Trainspotting-lite, an unfair comparison based primarily on the fact that both films feature youthful, trippy ensemble casts and introduce them in titled freeze frames.) What Human Traffic has to say about the state of youth in the UK is hardly news ­ there are no real revelations here. And whether or not you'll like the film depends mightily on how in-tune you are with the whole Ecstasy/rave subculture (itself taking off big-time in the States right now). Is this current snapshot of Britain's youth culture a prescient glimpse of our own future? I doubt it, but if Carl Cox is going to be running my local dance club then count me in.

2.5 Stars

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