A three-hour mini-series that originally debuted on the Lifetime Channel might not sound like all that snazzy a way to spend your evening, and I for one groaned aloud when I realized what I was about to sit through -- but hey, whaddaya know? Aside from being overlong by about an hour and dabbling far too often in a "preachifying" style of storytelling, Human Trafficking isn't half bad.Few topics are as horrifying as this: You're on vacation in the Philippines and your pre-teen daughter is abducted and sold to a slavery ring that supplies the planet's underbelly with fresh-faced and unwilling prostitutes. Or maybe you're a single mom in the Ukraine who just met a really nice guy ... a guy who turns out to be a scumbag slave-trader who threatens to murder your daughter if you don't do what you're told. And then there's the starry-eyed young Russian girl, promised a fair shot at a modeling career, only to be shipped overseas and turned into a deviant's plaything.
Sounds like salacious and grungy entertainment, doesn't it? Fortunately, no, because Human Trafficking is simply interested in bringing this sickening network to light. And if you happen to toss a fairly engaging little police procedural into the proceedings, heck, why not?
Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland play a pair of immigration officers who aim to bring down Sergei Karpovich (as greasily played by the excellent Robert Carlyle), a successful modeling agent who also moonlights as the leader of a massive slavery network. Karpovich's cronies steal young women from all four corners of the globe, and oddly enough -- most of 'em end of here in the good ol' U.S.A. You'd think that would make the unfortunate women just a bit luckier, but nope. The seedy brothels and makeshift jails are deceptively easy to hide in a large city.
Employing a device (and let's be honest: a title) snagged from Soderbergh's Traffic, director Christian Duguay presents several separate and distinct plot threads, each of which manages to slowly wend its way towards the others. Three of the sub-stories focus on the aforementioned abductions, while the fourth focuses on Sorvino and Sutherland as they try to thwart the evil bastards while doling out some seriously generic cop-movie dialogue.