DVD Review: TRAFFIK Remastered 20th Anniversary Edition

Acorn Media
Release date: Sept 29th, 2009
MSRP: $39.99

Stars: Bill Paterson, Lindsay Duncan and Julia Ormond, Jamal Shah, Talat Hussain and Fritz Müller-Scherz.

Many Americans may be familiar with Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed 2000 film Traffic. Traffic gave us an unflinching look at the cocaine drug trade from all angles. It was a very good film and garnered considerable praise.

It is also a remake.

In 1989, TRAFFIK first aired in the U.K.. It looked at the world of heroin and is even better than Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning film. Because it is a miniseries, it has more depth and can take a little more time with various aspects of the process. It uses three different sub-plots that are interwoven.

Jack Lithgow (Bill Paterson), is the British cabinet minister in charge of England’s anti-drug campaign. He travels to Pakistan in an effort to put together an agreement with the Pakistanis to get them to bring the hammer down on the smugglers and farmers behind Heroin. His rather righteous stance crumbles a bit when he is forced to face his daughter’s addiction. Helen Rosshalde (Lindsay Duncan) is focused on getting her German husband, a indicted drug runner, freed from jail. She pursues this with such focus that all other things fall by the wayside. Fazal (Jamal Shah) is a Pakistani farmer that leaves his village in search of work. He travels to the city of Karachi and ends up working for one of the country’s biggest drug kingpin.

Through these three storylines, and their various subplots, we see the entire process of Heroin. From the fields to the rehab centers where most fail to kick the addiction. The show does a fairly good job of not being preachy, something that many shows fail at. The writing is uniformly strong, drawing you in and never letting go. While this is indeed a work of fiction, it almost feels like a documentary at times.

Despite the proclaimation that this has been remasterered, the picture is only so-so. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that the source recording has degraded over time. A real shame because a title of this caliber deserves better. That said, it is not bad enough to ruin the viewing experience. It does, however, detract a bit.

Sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Nothing explosive here, the mix is ok and does it’s job.

Even after 20 years, the series feels current and is very relevant today. The series pulled me in after only one episode (there are six episodes totaling five hours) and kept me glued to my seat. The last time I was pulled in like this was THE WIRE. Fans of smart drama should get this, you won’t be disppointed. The weak transfer is annoying, but ultimately does not hurt this enough to keep sane minded folk from buying it.


Jeremy Lynch
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