Human Traffic

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama/Comedy Featurette - Cast and Crew Interviews
Filmographies - Cast and Crew
Main Menu Audio and Animation
Menu Animation
Music Video - C J Bolland
Random Music Selector
Scene Selection Animation
Television Spots (2)
Theatrical Trailer
Year Released 1999
Running Time 95:31 minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Justin Kerrigan
Irish Screen
Magna Pacific
Starring John Simm
Lorraine Pilkington 
Danny Dyer
Shaun Parkes
Nicola Reynolds
Dean Davies
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Rob Mello
Mathew Herbert

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    One of the great things about independent studios and independent distributors is that they tend to produce and distribute stuff that is way beyond anything that "the big boys" are willing to do. Sometimes that is a good thing, as the result is something special, whilst sometimes that is a bad thing, as some utter dross gets made that really should not. I am guessing that there are going to be some exceedingly disparate views about Human Traffic, and depending where you sit in regards to certain factors will define what your opinion is about this film. Certainly if you have a problem with the f-word, then this is perhaps a film that you may choose to avoid. It is not as bad as say Casino, since much of the use here is actually quite contextual, but it is certainly hard to ignore its usage. If you have a problem with films that to some extent glorify illegal drug use, then this is also going to be a film that perhaps you should avoid. However, to avoid this film is also to deny yourself something of a cinematic experience, the likes of which are only to be found in these sorts of independent films. Whilst I doubt that this is a film that I would return to often, it is nonetheless a film that I am glad to have seen, even though I do have something of a problem with the language and drug use. Mind you, if you want to hear some rather extreme interpretations of the true meaning of Star Wars, then this is definitely a film that you should watch!

   The tagline for the movie is "the weekend has landed". That really does tell you the entire plot of the film. Set in Cardiff, Wales this is perhaps the ultimate testament to the club scene of the nineties. It is the story of six people, whose lives are very much interwoven by the weekend. Jip (John Simm) is stuck in a dreary job whose only relief is the forty eight hours every week when work is not an issue. His entire existence is based around getting to the weekend to blow his hard-earned pounds on a forty-eight hour binge of beer, drugs, dance and sex, as he blows off the frustrations of his working life. He is aided by his best mate Koop (Shaun Parkes), a sadly untalented wannabe DJ selling vinyl records to hip-hop freaks at a local record store, who also has a problem with jealousy with respect to his girlfriend Nina (Nicola Reynolds). Nina has just tossed in her job at a local take away and is out to celebrate her joining the two million unemployed in Britain. Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington) has just ditched yet another unfaithful boyfriend and is out to have a fun time with her best mates. But, the weekend will not be complete without the drugs, and for these they turn to another mate in Moff (Danny Dyer), son of a local police superintendent. Rounding out the party for this weekend is Nina's younger brother Lee (Dean Davies) who is out to pop his cherry - not in sex terms but in drug terms. What follows is a ninety-minute summation of how these six people relieve the tedium of their existence in a blur of music, dance, drugs, alcohol and hopefully sex - the latter being especially important to Jip who is having a rather soft time of it recently.

    This simple story is woven into quite an engrossing film by director Justin Kerrigan, as we explore the whole culture of clubbing in the nineties. Whilst I am a bit removed from the demographic at which the film is aimed, I have little problem following the journey that he has planned. Some rather striking uses of film techniques adds tremendously to the visual appeal of the film, and the whole thing really does end up as some sort of definitive coda to the 1990s. As is usual with British films, the characters here are exceedingly believable and the performances more than adequate. As is so often the case with British films, the cast is not exactly made up of household names and I do not recall having seen any of the cast on film before (although their filmographies certainly suggest that they are not novices). Possibly the only weak link in the main cast here is Dean Davies, but then again he is also blessed with the least essential character in the film. Whilst none of the rest turn in superbly memorable performances, they are all enthusiastic participants and leave little room for complaint about their performances.

    Is this good or is this bad as far as films go? There will be plenty of arguments either way, but all I can say is that this is an engrossing film that whilst I would not return to it often, is certainly a film that I intend to return to again. A very interesting film, and precisely why independent film has to be encouraged wherever it is found in the world. Love it or hate it, we do need films like these that shake us out of our routine just a little.

Transfer Quality


    You will note that this is a Region 4 only DVD - and therefore it is reasonable to expect that what we are seeing here is Aussie work. Well, since the authoring was done by DVD Technologies in Sydney, it would seem that it is indeed an Aussie product. The transfer that results is an effort that they can be proud of, as is much of the overall product, barring a few quibbles. Just be aware that I have not seen this film theatrically and therefore am only guessing that the original film had certain scenes shot in a certain manner for effect - and thus the DVD transfer is not at fault.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, being the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 Enhanced.

    This is one good-looking transfer, with nary a thing wrong with it. Generally very sharp and detailed throughout, other than where it was not intended to be (the dream-like sequence during the club scene for instance), there is not much hidden by this transfer. For some of the best examples of how good this transfer is as far as sharpness is concerned, just check out towards the end of the film as the camera pans across the endless rows of terraced houses. It looks seriously good, even though the subject matter can be quite dour in real life. Shadow detail is very good indeed, even where it was not expected to be. The transfer is quite a clear one, with only minimal issues with grain, and even then some scenes in the club look like they were supposed to be grainy. There did not seem to be any problem with low level noise in the transfer. It would seem that this is a wonderful transfer of what the director intended us to see.

    The colours are generally gorgeous throughout, with a lot of bright colours to be had. In general, these are rendered in a very nicely vibrant way, totally at odds with the impression I had of Cardiff on my last visit there. There were a few instances of oversaturation during the club scenes at around the 46:00 minute mark, but I would suggest that these are intended as they are the result of intense red lighting. Perhaps the only place where the oversaturation was not intended was at 18:30 when Koop's bright red jacket just starts to waver to the wrong side of the oversaturation line. There was one rather brief instance of colour bleed at 87:27 when Moff's blue track pants look to be just getting out of control on a very long shot. Other than that, there was little to complain about as far as the colours are concerned in what is generally a richly-toned film.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. What few film artefacts were present hardly interfered at all with the film. Overall, I was very impressed by the video transfer here, as it could so easily have degenerated into something that looked quite poor, with plenty of opportunities for aliasing in particular to become a problem.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    And if I thought the video transfer was good, just listen to this booming audio transfer! If you like club music of the nineties, then you will love this little effort.

    There is just the one soundtrack on offer on this DVD, being a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack presented at the still unusual bitrate (for Region 4) of 448 Kb/s.

    The one area of minor concern in the soundtrack is that the ADR work done on the film has resulted in a slightly unnatural presence to the dialogue, especially during the opening sequences of the film where the characters establish themselves. Other than that, there is no concern with the soundtrack and dialogue was reasonably easy to hear and understand throughout - just give the volume a bit of a lift during the club scenes in order to overcome the music a little. There did not appear to be any problem with audio sync during the transfer, other than when Lulu is introduced as the ADR work here seems to be just a little sloppy.

    The original music for the film comes from Rob Mello and Mathew Herbert, and given the subject matter is obviously very 1990s techno-dance stuff. Whilst this is not my choice for great music, there is little wrong with the music per se and it cannot be denied that at times it does get the old body moving just a tad. Amongst soundtracks based solely upon modern pop music, this is certainly one of the better efforts I have heard.

    1990s club music needs a powerful beat and that is what we get here courtesy of some excellent use of the bass channel. Whilst this could have descended into a bass nightmare very quickly, in general the sound engineers have kept this from straying too far towards that area and the result is a very bassy sound without really creating an overpowering bass sound. Surround channel use is in general very good and the rear channels have been nicely used for some ambient effects. The overall soundscape is very natural and believable and you do get a nice encompassing feeling when the rear channels really kick in. Excellent stuff indeed and I really have little to complain about here at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    What is this - a respectable extras package for a non-mainstream film from an independent distributor? Nice to see an effort being made but I can assure you that you will have problems with the presentation of the extras.


    All menus are presented in much the same way with a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio menu of solid yellow with what amounts to a miniature television screen in the middle. Some nice audio and animation enhancement is also present throughout the various menus. The presentation is certainly very different.

Featurette - Cast and Crew Interviews

    Now you find out why the menu presentation will be problematic. That television screen in the yellow menus? You get to see the interviews (and everything else) in that screen, which means that the effective size of the video image you are watching on-screen is about one-fifth of the total the available viewing area of your screen. It might be a very novel presentation, but it does make things very hard to watch when they are that small. I would not like to see what this looks like on a 68cm television, or something even smaller - you might need binoculars to see it! I am presuming that the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 throughout the extras, but I cannot be sure as there is no time information nor other information encoded that comes up when I push the display button on my remote. The helpful message "title" is all that is displayed in the fluorescent panel throughout the playing of the extras. The interviews themselves are mixed together excerpts from the main cast members and the director - quite interesting but ultimately not too satisfying.

Filmographies - Cast and Crew

    Whilst these have a slightly different presentation, they are extremely difficult to read as the font used is far too small unless you are sitting closer to the screen than recommended or are watching on a large screen RPTV or projection screen. On a 68cm television, I would suggest that these will be illegible - I certainly had difficulty reading them on my setup. They look quite detailed, though.

Music Video - C J Bolland

    Presented in the same manner as the interviews, this basically seems to be extracts from the film over which is playing electronic music which sounds extracted from the film. Nothing too much to worry about in my view.

Random Music Selector

    Seems to do exactly what it says - takes you to random selections of music in the film.

Television Spots (2)

    Presented in the same manner as the interviews, they run consecutively. Basically typical examples of the short film teasers seen on television.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in the same manner as the interviews, a decent enough example of your modern theatrical trailer that takes most of the best bits from the film and puts them into a shortened two minute version of the film.

Trailer - DVD Technologies

    Whilst not an extra per se, worthy of mention as it uses the sound of the Dolby Digital City trailer over new stylistically animated visuals of Sydney. Looks pretty cool and sounds cool too.

R4 vs R1

    Human Traffic is not due for release in Region 1 until 12th December 2000, but since it is a Miramax release there, it will be rather bereft of extras. It would appear that it will only have the theatrical trailer, although this may change upon the eventual release. However, this would make the Region 4 release a winner in all respects.


    Human Traffic is not a film that is going to enrapture everyone, due to the subject matter and the language. However, I am quite impressed by the film and would suggest that if you like to investigate different films, then this one may well be worth a rental. If you liked Trainspotting then this should be right up your alley. The film is presented on a fine DVD, with little in the way of complaint apart from the rather esoteric presentation of the extras. Different it may be, but at the end of the day this is a sadly flawed attempt at extras presentation. Anyone watching this on a 68cm television is going to have problems with the decided lack of size in the television screen style presentation of many of the extras. I am almost tempted to suggest that this was designed on a large screen projection television or screen, as even on an 80cm television, the size of the presentation is not good. As for the font size used in the filmographies, well... The DVD also presents another style of DVD case that I have previously not seen. I really, really, really wish that distributors would stick with the genuine Amaray case rather than keep trying these different, and largely inferior, products.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
7th November 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL