tinue working on his grandfather’s cattlernranch. When the old man dies, however,rnCole’s mother c|uickly sells the land to oilrndevelopers and leaves for California tornbecome an actress. She represents modernrnAmerica: Rather than nurtnre whatrnlittle tradition she’s been born into, sherncashes it in for qnick money and vulgarrnfame. Cole, on the other hand, is arnhorseman, even instinctively so —he is arnknight, though he lacks the ethos of arncourt. In Mexico, he comes to work on arncattle ranch that has been in the Rocha yrnVillareal family for over 170 years, arn27,000-acre spread as old as America andrnnm by a family more European thanrnMexican. Wliile its current owner, DonrnHector, recognizes and honors the boy’srnnatural nobility and love of the land.rnCole is not ready to deal vith the intricaciesrnof a tradition he can only begin tornunderstand. Bewitched by f^ector’srndaughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz), hernhas no way of knowing what he’s gettingrninto. Wdicn she provocatively demandsrnthat he let her ride the stud stallion underrnhis care, he halflieartedlv objects: “You’rernfixin’ to get me in trouble.” Knowing better,rnshe replies with a seductive smile,rn”You are in troidile.” McCarthy hasrnbeen compared with some justice tornHemingway, Faulkner, and HanneryrnO’Connor. But here he is taking HenryrnJames’s lead: Cole is the decent, untutoredrnAmerican hopelessly perplexed byrnEuropean subtieties.rnThornton has made a better thanrnfair—and, at times, exceptional —adaptationrnof tiie novel. Unfortunately, he wasrnforced to cut his original four-hour versionrnin half What’s left is sometimesrnoverly schematic, but it’s neverthelessrntrue to McCarthv’s intentions. I’d like tornsee what was cut. While the book hasrnbeen noted for its terse, objective style,rnthere’s a good deal of philosophic commentrnin the narration, especially whenrnthe highly articulate members of thernRocha family take the floor. Since tinsrnmaterial is the least congenial to film, it’srnprobably what Thornton was forced torncut.rnAlthough Damon and Thomas arernconsiderably older tiian the novel’s 16-rnand 17-year-old protagonists, tiiey successfullyrnrender tiieir characters’ amalgamrnof toughness and innocence. Spanishrnactress Penelope Cruz matches themrnwith her portrait of a willful rich girlrnwhose romantic scheming is undone byrnher youthful naivete. Her scenes withrnDamon are among the film’s best. Wdiilernnot conventionally beautiful, she exhibitsrnan old-world femininit}’ that is extraordinarilyrnalluring. For a Circe this charming,rnlosing all might seem a small enoughrnprice.rnSteven Soderbergh’s clever-but finallyrnfacile —Traff/’c pursues four separaternodysseys to illustrate how the illegal drugrntrade veaves together people from everyrnclass, race, ethnicity, and nationality,rntrapping them in its corrupting web.rnBenicio Del Toro plays a good Mexicanrncop who wants to clean up his cit —anrnimprobable aspiration, since he lives inrnTijuana. His American counterparts arernDon Cheadle and Litis Guzman, twornDEA agents who enjoy their work despiternits evident futilit}’. Guzman manages tornkeep his spirits up with the prospect ofrnwaging a little unofficial class warfare onrnthe side: “I have dreams about. .. bustingrnthe top people, rich people, white people.”rnA C[uick montage cuts from thisrndream to its realiti’ at a San Diego countryrnclub, where a er}’ pregnant CatherinernZeta-Jones worries about cholesterolrnas she dines on duck a I’orange. Takingrnleave of her societi’ friends, she returnsrnhome to v’itness her vealtiiy and respectedrnhusband being taken awa- in handcuffs.rnTheir lifest)’le, it turns out, is supportedrnb}’ importing drugs. At the top ofrnthe heap is Ohio State Supreme CourtrnJudge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas),rnwho —despite his evident rectitudern—is all too easily seduced by an opportunih’rnprovided b’ the drug trade. Hernhas just accepted the presidenf s invitationrnto become the next “drug czar,” anrnappointment he clearly sees as a steppingrnstone to higher places. At one point, hernproudly annoimccs to his visibly impressedrnwife, “I’m penciled in for somernface time with the president!” His pettyrnhubris leads, with predictable dramaticrnlogic, to an insupportable discovery: Hisrnown straight-A I6-vear-old daughter is developingrna crack-cocaine habit right underrnhis officious nose.rnSoderbcrgh drives home the point thatrnw e’ve lost the drug war. No surprise here;rnwe lost it before ever began. B}- criminalizingrndrugs in 1916, America set itself uprnfor today’s nightinare. Prohibition is almostrnalways a cure worse than the disease.rnVolstcad’s attempt to turn Americarndrv in 1919 resulted in an unprecedentedrnopportimitv for criminals, who quicklyrnorganized themselves to keep the boozernflowing to our republic’s good citizens,rnproviding themscKes with enormousrnprofits and unprecedented power.rn(Think Joe Kenrredy.) Contrabandrngoods inevitably create what one of thernfilm’s prep-school druggies calls an “unbeatablernmarket force.” The more wernprosecute drug dealers, the more lucrativernwe make their trade, encouragingrnothers to spread the product.rnIn one scene, a frustrated Wakefieldrnhectors his staff for solutions, but they canrnonly respond with embarrassed silence.rnThis strains belief Have you ever met arnbureaucrat who doesn’t have a ten-pointrnplan to solve every social problem? Butrnwe get the point. It’s not that these folksrnhave run out of ideas; they never had anyrnto begin with. A few scenes later, Wakefieldrnis finally offered a real solution in arnmeeting with a Mexican general who hasrnjust been appointed his country’s versionrnof drug czar. After the general details hisrnplans to combat Mexico’s drug cartels,rnWakefield asks what he’s doing on therntreatment side. He smiles and shrugs;rn”addicts treat themselves; they overdosernand there’s one less” for the state to worryrnabout. Wakefield manfully clenches hisrnjaw to stifle his outrage at this arrant insensitivity.rnBut why? However coldhearted,rnthe general’s laissez-faire policyrnis at least half right: Those who becomernaddicted to hard drugs must either destroyrnor cure themselves. It’s a truism ofrnpsychiatr)’ that no one can be cured of arnmental pathology until he wants to be,rnand addiction is always a symptom ofrnpathology. However well intentioned,rnunsolicited intervention—whether penalrnor therapeutic—does not work; it only exacerbatesrnthe problem.rnSoderbcrgh is full of good intentions.rnHe even brings Orrin Hatch, BarbararnBoxer, William Weld, and other politicosrnon screen to impart gravitas to the proceedings.rnBut he refrains from reachingrnthe logical conclusion to which his narrativernpoints. The sooner we decriminalizerndrugs, the sooner we’ll take the profit motivernout of dealing them. Without thatrnmotive, the power of gangsters to corruptrngovernment officials will wither. Thenrnwc can turn our full attention to the foolsrnwho persist in poisoning themselves.rnIt’s really that simple. Too bad none ofrnour elected representatives has the nervernto say so. crnLooking for a good video?rnCheck out George McCartney’s reviewsrnfrom our back issues online atrn«\v.i..liriiiiitiesiiijj;a/.inc.i>rj;rn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn