After a short discussion by the film’s narrator, Jip, on his inability to maintain an erection and a rather standard introduction of his friends – "that’s my friend (fill in the blank) – he/she’s off his/her tits!" – Human Traffic drops the proverbial beat and, if only for a moment, raises hopes.
Over the opening credits, the first of many Big Beat anthems mimics the visual scene: color shots of thousands of ravers in the streets causing a bit of anarchy juxtaposed with black-and-white pictures of cops slamming their way toward the camera. As the music intones, "build it up/tear it down," Justin Kerrigan, the film’s 25 year-old director, throws in a parting shot of ravers pushing and pulling on the Queen’s door at Buckingham Palace. Us vs. Them. Ecstasy vs. the System.
But what could have been an incendiary – albeit overly didactic – beginning to a truly useful film, about the growing disparity between what young people want and what they have come to expect in modern Britain, ends as soon as the credits get finished. An exploration into monotony ensues, with Kerrigan leaving any sense of political commitment (or social reality) to the ether, in favor of a John Hughesian sketch comedy based on the tired come-ups and come-downs of 20-somethings who couldn’t be further away from changing the world they hate.
Kerrigan clearly envisions his Welsh characters (Jip, Lulu, Koop, Nina, Moff) as Bonnies and Clydes of a growing generation sick of establishment-paranoia and dead-end jobs. But in the end these characters are just another desert-island troupe, mimicking the "Real World," dipping into the moral ambivalence of "living for the weekend," lost in their own standard heterosexuality and cloying sense of Gen-X charm.
"Friends"-meets-Trainspotting. For fans of both only.
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