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"TRAFFIC" is actually 3 stories dealing with drug trafficking. In the movie the three stories cut back and forth from one story to another. Each is shot a little differently so it's easy to tell the stories apart.

I have separated this spoiler into the 3 parts so it's easier for you to follow.


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The film begins and ends with this story in Mexico.

Near Tijuana, two policemen, Javiar Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) and his partner, Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vargas) are sitting in a car, waiting for something. Finally, it arrives: a large shipment of cocaine. Javiar and Manolo seize the drugs and apprehend the perpetrators. While en route back to the station (I guess), both men are stopped by soldiers, with automatic weapons pointed at them. These men work for General Arturo Salazar and they take the perpetrators and the shipment away from Javiar and Manolo. However, the general is impressed with Javiar's work, and has something in mind for him.

Javiar is given a job by the General. He is to apprehend, but not kill, an assassin, who has been clipping some of the General's men. Javiar finds the assassin in a homosexual club, and easily gets the assassin to follow him, which is when Javiar captures him. The assassin is brought back to the General's hideaway, and is beaten and tortured. Javiar is beginning to become a little disillusioned by the swift justice of Mexico.

The General takes the assassin, after brutal beatings, and serves him dinner. It is there that the general demands that the assassin give away the locations of all of the leaders of the cartels. The assassin, scared out of his wits, reluctantly obliges, and writes them down, followed by chugging a large glass of wine.

Javiar and Manolo are sent to round up some of the cartels, and in a news report, it states that Madrigal, another big cartel man, has been killed. The General lets the assassin go, and continues to crack down on the cartels.

Javiar, meanwhile, meets with some American DEA agents and they want him to talk. Javiar decides on a safer place than their car, and the three are suddenly wading, in swimsuits, in a community swimming pool. Javiar explains that he doesn't like what he's doing for the General, and just wants to take his money, and give it back to the community, like build a lighted baseball field for the kids or something. The three agree to meet again at a later date. Javiar and Manolo are then driving a drug boss' mistress (Salma Hayek, in a surprise cameo!) to his home. They discover that the drug boss is actually Madrigal, who is still alive. Javiar figures out that the general is actually in cahoots with the cartels, and makes Manolo promise to him that they will say nothing.

Manolo's girlfriend goes over to Javiar's apartment and says that he didn't come home last night. He also told her about Madrigal still being alive. Javiar finally finds Manolo, and curses him out for leaking information, even after their pact.

A few scenes later, some of Salazar's men find Manolo at a restaurant, and tell him to come with them. Manolo gets in the car, and finds Javiar handcuffed. Salazar's men drive them to the middle of the desert, force them to dig their own graves, and are about to be executed. Manolo begs the men to tell his girlfriend that he died doing an honorable thing.

Javiar and Manolo both have a gun at the back of their head. Manolo's assassin shoots him, but the other puts Javiar in a headlock, and carries him away, explaining that's what Salazar does, it's his style. They only wanted Manolo dead, but they wanted to scare Javiar, and make him think twice about squealing.

Javiar consoles Manolo's girfriend, and finally decides to go to the DEA agents, who bring him aboard after he cleanly passes a polygraph.

Javiar joins the DEA, and busts a large shipment. He also watches as some men kill General Salazar by injecting him with some drugs.

The last scene shows Javiar watching a little league baseball game being played at night, under the lights. He just sits there, quietly, eating his popcorn, and smiles.


This story begins with Supreme Court Justice Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) trying a case. Next for him, he's off to Washington, where he meets with the Chief of Staff (Albert Finney), and is appointed, by the President, as the new drug czar, which is direct focus on the fight on drugs.

Well, ironic as it may seem, Robert's daughter, Caroline and her preppie boyfriend, Seth are freebasing at Robert's house in Cincinnati.

A few nights later, Caroline, Seth and many of their friends are getting high from weed, pills, and crack. One of their friends passes out, and begins to turn blue. Caroline, Seth, and the guy's girlfriend decide to handle the situation by putting the guy in the car, driving him to the hospital, and just leaving his unconscious body outside the entrance of the hospital. The plan almost seems successful, but the three are stopped almost immediately by a cop in the hospital parking lot.

Caroline spends the night in jail, and after being interviewed by a guidance counselor, we learn that Caroline is third in her class, does volunteer work, etc., mainly an exceptional student and the most unlikely person to be freebasing.

Caroline finally returns home, where Judge Daddy lays it down rough, cutting off everything except school. After Caroline leaves the room, Robert and his wife, thinking Caroline only drank and did some grass, talk, and she says that Robert is being too hard on Caroline. Robert explains, as the new drug czar, he would set a bad example if he allows his family memebers to get away clean.

Robert dedcides to go across the country, to the big drug areas, and try to figure out the best way to crack down. He meets with General Salazar, whom he considers as his Mexican counterpart, in El Paso, Texas. The two talk, and Salazar explains that the best way to get rid of the drug problem is to let people shoot up and O.D., problem solved. Robert is obviously not too happy about that theory.

Robert flies home, and has a fight with his wife in the car. She labels him a hippocrite, since he needs three brandys before dinner. He says he needs them to take the edge off, or else he will be bored to death. His wife drops him off at the house, and drives away, angry. Robert, a bit surprised, goes into the house to talk with Caroline, who is freebasing at that very moment.

He goes into her room, trying to find her, but sees she isn't there, until he hears a lighter and puffing from her bathroom. He tries to open the door, but it's locked. She finally opens the door, and she is sweating profusely, giggling, and rolling her eyes. Robert gets very pissed, and searches her bathroom for the drugs. He finally finds the pipe, the coke, and the lighter above her linen cupboard. He gets very upset, and watches as his daughter enjoys her high.

Caroline is sent to rehab, where she explains her problems. She also goes to a retreat right outside of Cincinnati, but later escapes, to end up in the ghetto, trying to score some stuff. She has sex with a dealer, who shoots some smack into her toe. Caroline is now a crack whore. Robert receives the news that she left the retreat, and begins looking for her. He drives around the ghetto, but doesn't find her.

Robert and his wife are awoken one morning by the phone. It's Robert's aide, who informs him that General Salazar was indeed in cahoots with the cartels, and he has been arrested. At that moment, Robert's wife discovers that her necklace and their camcorder have been stolen. Caroline came and took them for drug money.

Robert finally decides to go find her himself. He goes to her school, and grabs Seth right out of class, and brings him along. They go to the dealer she was having sex with earlier, but he's really pissed and threatens Robert with a gun.

Robert and Seth go to another place. The man inside won't let Seth in, but Robert, now pissed beyond belief, kicks open the door, to reveal a middle-aged man, standing above Caroline, naked and drugged in bed. Robert tells the man to leave, which he does. Robert then goes over to Caroline, and begins hugging her. Caroline, now semi-awake, looks up at him, and smiles. Robert begins crying. Seth, watching all of this at the doorway, leaves.

Robert is now about to accept his new post as drug czar, and gives a speech at the White House. Suddenly, a crisis of conscience occurs, and he says that he is supposed to wage war on drugs. But, if the drugs affect his family, how does he wage war with his family?

Robert then shockingly say he can't do it, and turns down the position, and leaves the White House.

Caroline, all cleaned up now, is at a rehab meeting, and explains her situation. In the crowd are Robert and his wife. Robert explains before everyone that he is there to listen and to understand.


Two undercover DEA agents, Montell Gordon (Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luiz Guzman) are in the middle of a sting operation, trying to catch drug pusher Eduardo Ruiz in the act. When the vans carrying the shipment arrive, the other DEA agents wait in the wings, but the sting is interrupted by the local San Diego cops, and Ruiz freaks out. He pulls out a gun, and shoots Montell in the chest, and manages to escape from the building. Ray shoots Ruiz's bodyguard, and helps Montell, who is okay, thanks to his bulletproof vest. There's a big shootout between the DEA and the San Diego PD, against the drug runners.

Montell and Ray chase Ruiz into a kid's restaurant, which is empty. Both men see Ruiz's loafer sticking out of the ball playset (everyone remembers the balls, don't they?) and Montell shoots the foot, and captures Ruiz.

We then meet Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the pregnant wife of Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer), a notorious drug dealer, only Helena doesn't know that. She's eating roasted duck at her country club with some friends. When she gets her son and returns home, she finds Carlos being arrested on drug charges. Ruiz was granted immunity and in turn, gave up Carlos.

. Helena, very hysterical and confused, is comforted by the family attorney Arnie Metzger (Dennis Quaid), who seems nice on the outside but is actually very sleazy.

Ruiz, meanwhile, in the custody of Montell and Ray, is spilling the beans about everything. He gives this long speech about how drug cartels cannot be tamed, and how easy it is for young people to get it as well.

Helena is having major problems. Her credit cards have maxed out, her furniture is being repossessed, and she is still a little pissed about Carlos not telling her the truth.

While at the beach, and under surveillence by Montell and Ray, Helena sees a strange man talking to her son. She confronts the man, and he tells her that Carlos owes the Obregon brothers, one of the most notorious drug dealers in Mexico, a lot of money, and that breaking her son's neck would only cover some of the debt. He then walks away, leaving Helena's son unharmed, telling her that the first payment is $3 million, and they expect it or else bad things will happen to her family.

Helena goes to Arnie's office, and asks for $3 million, but he tells her he doesn't have it. He then tries to put some sleazy moves on Helena, but she doesn't pay attention because she is busy brainstorming a way to pay off the Obregon brothers.

In a surprise scene, Helena takes out two glasses of lemonade to Montell and Ray, doing surveillance from their van, and asks them to keep a look out for suspicious characters after her son was confronted. Montell agrees to do so, and after she leaves, Ray wants the lemonade checked for poison.

Desperate for money, Helena decides to take matters into her own hands. She remembers the conversation with her husband in jail about a certain painting. He told her to "look into it. sell it, if you have to. LOOK INTO IT." Helena takes the clue, and cuts open the back part of the painting, and finds some names and numbers of Carlos' contacts. She will use them to make everything right again.

In the mean time, Helena has hired the same assassin from earlier (from the Mexico story) to erase the only man who can put Carlos away, Eduardo Ruiz. The assassin rigs a bomb to the patrol car that Ruiz and the agents, including Montell and Ray, are supposed to get into. There is also another assassin, hired to kill the 1st one with a rifle in the warehouse next to the courthouse. The trial is put on recess until the next day, so Ruiz cannot testify that day. While walking over to the car, Montell passes by the assassin in his car, talking to Helena. Ruiz, feeling suddenly strange, decides he would rather walk back to the hotel. They all agree. The assassin tells Helena that they are walking away from the car. Helena tells the assassin to get out of his car, and go shoot Ruiz in the head.

The assassin agress, gets out of the car, and is about to shoot Ruiz... when the other assassin shoots Helena's assassin, calling him a rat. Montell sees this, and fills Helena's assassin full of holes. Ray, in the middle of all the calamity, goes over to the car, but triggers the bomb, and is blown up. Montell yells out, and is deeply saddened.

Helena now goes to Mexico, and tries to sell some coke to one of the Obregon brohers (Benjamin Bratt). She explains that the coke is completely undetectable, and Obregon agrees to buy. With the coke, Helena explains, the debt is erased and her life will got back to normal. Obregon agrees.

Helena then leaves Mexico, and stands by her husband during his trial. Montell goes to Ray's funeral, and consoles Ray's mother and wife. Then, it's back to work. Ruiz, Montell, and some other agents are in the hotel, when Ruiz's breakfast is served by a waiter. Ruiz eats the food, and says it tastes terrible. There's another knock at the door, and when they ask who it is, the person on the other side of the door says it's breakfast. Montell tells Ruiz to hide in the bathroom, and the agents kick open the door, and pull the waiter to the ground. Montell then realizes that the waiter before was not the real waiter, and tells his other men to call an ambulance. Montell runs to the bathroom, and finds Ruiz, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

At Carlos' trial, the prosecutor announces that the trial cannot go on, due to the sudden death of Eduardo Ruiz. Carlos is set free.

There's a big party at Carlos' house and he is in his office, talking to Arnie, who says he'll be right over. Carlos says not to worry about it, since Arnie lied to him. Carlos explains that he received $3 million dollars two days after he was arrested, the same $3 million that Arnie told Helena he didn't have. Carlos goes onto explain how Arnie was planning to take the money, his wife, and family, and leave Carlos in a prison to rot. Arnie says he doesn't know what Carlos is talking about. Carlos says good-bye, and hangs up. Just as Arnie hangs up, two men with guns show up in his office. Helena walks into Carlos' study, and asks who he was talking to. Carlos says it was Arnie, but he can't make it to the party.

Suddenly, Montell walks in, and calls Carlos a murderer to his face. Two goons show up out of nowhere, and wrestle with Montell. While he is on the ground, struggling, however, Montell manages to place a bug under Carlos' desk.

Montell is then escorted out of the house, and walks away. As he is walking away, he just smiles.

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