You can tell Traffik is a serious movie about scary things because it’s spelled with a “k.” “Traffic,” who cares? But “traffik”?? Watch out! Written and directed by Deon Taylor (Meet the Blacks), this lurid, clumsy thriller is 30 minutes old before it gives any indication what it’s about — sex-trafficking — and even then, it only thinks it’s about that. It’s really just a generic regular-people-stumble-into-a-criminal-enterprise-and-run-from-bad-guys scenario, and sex-trafficking happens to be the enterprise.
The rest of it, the part that doesn’t matter but constitutes 75% of the story, concerns a dogged Sacramento journalist named Brea (Paula Patton) and her mechanic boyfriend, John (Omar Epps), who’s about to propose. While driving to a friend’s luxurious mountain home for the weekend, they encounter some racist bikers at a gas station who are accompanied by a bedraggled woman (Lisa Hitchcock Kallstrom) who seems to be in some kind of distress. Shortly after they arrive at the house, they are unexpectedly joined by the friends who lent it to them, awful jerky sports agent Darren (Laz Alonso) and his girlfriend, Malia (Roselyn Sanchez). Shortly after that — but still much further into the movie than it should have been — Brea discovers a satellite phone in her purse that must have been put there by the woman at the gas station. She must need help!
Et cetera. Traffik starts by claiming it’s “inspired by true events” (translation: “there is such a thing as sex-trafficking”) and ends with sobering statistics about how prevalent it is, but what’s between those two points is an increasingly ludicrous boilerplate story populated by thin characters who make poor choices, culminating in a singularly anticlimactic finale. Paula Patton is good as a strong woman in a tight spot — if we feel for anyone here, it’s her — but she deserves better than a second-rate thriller with a false sense of social importance.