Human Traffic

UK/Ireland 1999

Film still for Human Traffic

Reviewed by Xan Brooks


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

One wild weekend in present-day Cardiff. Jip is a shop worker in his twenties, embarrassed by his prostitute mother and insecure after failing to perform sexually during several one-night stands. Lulu is a uninhibited club minx, and Moff a laid-back dope dealer on income support who deals from his home, despite the fact that his father is a policeman. Koop works in a record shop and is obsessively jealous of his long-term girlfriend Nina.

On Friday night, the five friends, together with Nina's younger brother Lee, drop the drug ecstasy and set off for the Cardiff club scene. When Moff fails to get a ticket into top club The Asylum for Lulu, Jip gives her his and blags his way in by pretending to be a journalist from Mixmag magazine.

Inside, Jip confides his sexual worries to Lulu. The gang move on to a party at a country home, and become progressively more stoned on various drugs. Returning to Lulu's house, Jip and Lulu have sex. Nina and Koop make peace, while across town Moff masturbates in his bedroom and is discovered by his mum. On Sunday, Jip takes flowers to his own mother. That evening, he and Lulu wander hand in hand through Cardiff's city centre as bona fide boyfriend and girlfriend.


On the face of it, the cinematic appeal of clubland is easy to see. It's loud, it's visual. Its dramatic landscape is a cauldron of surface emotions. The scene serves up a ready-made menu of free-loving youngsters, and is liberally garnished with an energetic contemporary soundtrack - sex and drugs and drum 'n' bass.

But first impressions can be deceptive. Film-makers who try to fit the essence of club culture into a dramatic straitjacket are liable to find it sliding through their fingers, because club culture - like art, like music, like film itself - is an autonomous and organic mode of expression. The disciplines are mutually exclusive. Bernardo Bertolucci may have described his recent film Besieged as "a piece of chamber music," but it remained, basically, a film about a concert pianist. Likewise, while Human Traffic may arrive billed as "a blinding rave movie" (by Heat magazine), it is, rather, a film about ravers. Its formal attempts to duplicate the rave experience are far and away the picture's weakest aspects.

Human Traffic labours hard to look like a film under the influence. Edited in an amphetamine rush, its fly-on-the-wall dramatics are interspersed with Day-Glo fantasy sequences. The dialogue apes the kind of bumper-sticker soundbites you find in the "House Nation" vox pops inside Mixmag magazine (a publication to which the film shrewdly cosies up). Its lead characters often deliver their lines to camera, presumably in an attempt to break the division between screen and viewer, to usher us all into the filmic party. Meanwhile, spasmodic attempts are made to hook Human Traffic's microcosmic shenanigans into a wider raison d'être (cue a cameo from former drug dealer-turned-cult hero Howard Marks, newsreel footage of Direct Action protesters, plus an impromptu rendition of an "alternative national anthem" that must rank as one of the most excruciating scenes I've seen all year). Stylistically, Human Traffic is hardly radical. For much of its run, Justin Kerrigan's debut views like a cross between The Monkees and those snazzy commercials that building societies use to target young investors.

Kerrigan is more effective when keeping to the subtler, more human parts of his canvas. His portraits of the interrelationships between his five principles, for instance, are often beautifully done. Kerrigan has cited Richard Linklater as a major influence and in its best moments Human Traffic manages to match the airy rhythms of films like Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise. These characters are wasted but likable; the performances (from the male trio of John Simm, Shaun Parkes and Danny Dyer in particular) are consistently charming. You have a sense that beneath all the bullshit, the strutting, the jockeying for position, they all genuinely love each other. Their self-conscious back-chat frames real and deep-seated emotions.

Good acting gives Human Traffic its soul. If Kerrigan had given his players more room to breathe, one suspects, he might have produced something truly special. As it stands, Human Traffic unrolls as a frustrating hodge-podge: its spine of authenticity overladen with so many ham-fisted gimmicks and gestures at cool that it irritates as much as it allures. In the end its reach exceeds its grasp. As a film about clubbers, Human Traffic rings sweet and true. As an essay on club culture in general, it feels half-cut: pure narcotic padded out with talcum powder.


Allan Niblo
Emer McCourt
Justin Kerrigan
Director of Photography
David Bennett
Patrick Moore
Production Designer
David Buckingham
Roberto Mello
Matthew Herbert
©Fruit Salad Films Ltd
Production Companies
Metrodome/Irish Screen presents a Fruit Salad Films production of a Justin Kerrigan film
Executive Producer
Renata S. Aly
Co-executive Producers
Michael Wearing
Nigel Warren-Green
Kevin Menton
Associate Producers
Arthur Baker
Rupert Preston
Irish Screen Head of Production
David McLoughlin
Production Co-ordinators
Andrea Cornwall
Marcus Collier
Production Managers
Jonathan Rawlinson
Stella Nwimo
Location Managers
Peter Vidler
Frank Coles
Andy Collie
Post-production Supervisors:
Maria Walker
Jackie Vance
Claire Mason
Production Consultant
Andy Ordonez
Anna Wilson
Assistant Directors
Emma Pounds
Hywel Watkins
Charlie Watson
Marcus Collier
Mathew Penry Davey
Tivian Zvekan
Martin Scanlan
Marcus Collier
Script Supervisor
Laura Gwynn
Sue Jones
Gary Howe
Jason Camilleri
Paul Edwards
Additional Editing
Stuart Gazzard
Editbox Editor
Clayton Lonie Jr
Art Director
Sue Ayton
Storyboard Artists
Nick Kilroy
Deena Mathews
Costume Designer
Claire Anderson
Costume Supervisor
Anne McManus
Make-up/Hair Design
Tony Lilley
Hair/Make-up Artists
Hannah Coles
Kerry September
Music Supervisor
Pete Tong
Music Co-ordinator
Roberto Mello
Music Editor
Kenny Clark
Music Consultant
Arthur Baker
"Build It Up, Tear It Down" by Normal Cook, performed by Fatboy Slim; "My Last Request" by D. Douglas, M. Hamilton, performed by Grim; "Kill the Pain" by M. Philippou, M. Fiennes, performed by Universal; "Nightmare" by Alberto Bertapelle, performed by Brainbug; "Stalker" by G. King; performed by Aphrodite; "You Gonna Get Yours" by C. Ridenhour, Hank Shocklee, performed by Public Enemy; "Scared" by Hadfield, Ryan-Carter, performed by Lucid; "Flowerz" by Armand Van Helden,Roland Clark, performed by Armand Van Helden; "It Ain't Gonna Be Me", "Desolate 1" by/performed by C.J. Bolland; "Atlanta" by/performed by Pete Heller; "Push It", "DarkAir" "Mantra (Forever)" by Ian Bland, Rob Tissera, performed by Quake; "Out of the Blue" by Perry Corsten, performed by System F; "Orgive" by Erik Satie, arranged/performed by William Orbit; "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" by Cleveland, performed by Indeep; "Dirt" by Richard Fearless, Steve Hellier, J. McDonald, performed by Death in Vegas; "Cookies" by G. Lee, performed by Jacknife Lee; "Diving Faces" by T. Menguaer, J. Herborth, performed by Liquid Child; "Kosmic Pop", "My Fellow Boppers" by F. Stalings Jnr, performed by Felix De Housekat; "Getting Blunted" by/performed by Mulder; "All Day" by Tyrrell, R. Martin, performed by Interfearence; "Kittens" by Emerson, Smith, Hyde, performed by Underworld; "Juice" by Shur, Molton, performed by Itaal Shur; "The Age of Love" by Bruno Sanchioni, Giuseppe Cherchia, performed by The Age of Love; "College of Dreams" by/performed by John Beltran; "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" by Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster, performed by Mantovani; "Shine On" by S. Lewis, M. Mangini, S. Faber, A. Curtesa, performed by Degrees of Motion; "King Tito's Gloves" by Damon Baxter, performed by Deadly Avenger; "Café Del Mar" by Paul M., performed by Energy 52; "The Masterplan" by Diana Brown, Romeo, Barrie K. Sharpe, Lever, Percy, performed by Diane Brown, Barrie K. Sharpe; "Belfast" by Paul Hartnoll, Phillip Hartnoll, performed by Orbital; "Black Shaolin" by Carl Cox, Top Cat, performed by Top Cat; "Anastasia" by Olivier Abbeloos, Patrick de Meyer, performed by T99; "Scene 30" by Richard Warren, performed by Echoboy; "Bad Boy" by Ruffnek Trilogy, performed by RNT; "Mood Club" by O. Lunny, performed by First Born; "5.55" by Daniel Newman, performed by Durango; "Come Together" by Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes, Robert Young, performed by Primal Scream; "BucketWipe" by Bailiff, performed by Position Normal; "Puffin' Da 'Erb" performed by Mad Doctor X; "Congratulations", "Never Believe"
Sound Recordist
Martyn Stevens
Re-recording Mixers
Craig Irving
Nick Le Mesurier
Supervising Sound Editor
Glenn Freemantle
Sound Editor
Tom Sayers
Dialogue Editors
Keith Marriner
Gillian Dodders
Sandy Buckanan
Miriam Ludbrook
John Simm
Lorraine Pilkington
Shaun Parkes
Danny Dyer
Nicola Reynolds
Dean Davies
Peter Albert
Lulu's Uncle Eric
Jan Anderson
Karen Benson
Terence Beesley
Moff's father
Sarah Blackburn
Jip's ex 2
Anne Bowen
Moff's grandmother
Neil Bowens
Asylum doorman
Peter Bramhill
Jo Brand
Mrs Reality
Stephanie Brooks
Richard Coyle
Carl Cox
Pablo Hassan
Nicola Davey
Jip's ex 3
Roger Evans
Bradley Freegard
Helen Griffin
Jip's mother
Emma Hall
Elizabeth Harper
Jip's ex 1
Carol Harrison
Moff's mother
Jennifer Hill
Jip's secretary
Tyrone Johnson
hip hop junkie
Justin Kerrigan
Ziggy Marlon
Nicola Heywood-Thomas
TV interviewer
Nick Kilroy
Andrew Lincoln
Howard Marks
Robert Marrable
Louis Marriot
Cardiff bad boy
Danny Midwinter
Millsy in Nottingham
Millsy from Roath
Robbie Newby
Karen Benson's boyfriend
Tom Tom's MC
Cadfen Roberts
Jip's mother's client
Mad Doctor X
Koop's workmate
Phillip Rosch
Jip's manager
Jason Samuels
bad boy
Mark Seaman
Jeremy Faxman
Lynne Seymour
Patrick Taggart
Giles Thomas
Menna Trussler
Lulu's Auntie Violet
Larrington Walker
Koop's father
Anna Wilson
Eilian Wyn
Tim Hamilton
Alicia Ferraboschi
Sherena Flash
Marat Khairoullu
Adam Pudney
Mark Seymore
Algernon Williams
Colin Williams
Frank Wilson
Metrodome Distribution Ltd
tbc feet
tbc minutes
Dolby digital SR
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011