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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 25%
Average: 18.75%
Pretty Bad37.5%
Total Crap: 18.75%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"The only thing missing here is Chuck Norris"
2 stars

How does a film tackle the subject of human trafficking, containing enough moments of horror and unease for ten films, and still attempt to be a mass-audience-pleasing endeavor? Trade accepts the challenge, takes the wide-awake nightmare of sexual slavery and attempts to contort it in ways that wont depress viewers, but still retain enough of message to educate and stun. The intention is wonderful, but the execution is strikingly graceless and borderline offensive.

When Mexican small-time crook Jorge (Cesar Ramos) finds his little sister kidnapped and sold into slavery by Russian crooks, he tracks her to the U.S. border, hoping to find a way to free her. His path intersects with fraud investigator Ray (Kevin Kline), who doesnt believe Jorges story at first, but slowly comes to understand the gravity of the situation. Crossing the country to New Jersey to stop the sale of the young girl, the two form a bond of mutual regret, hoping the retrieval of the child will wash away their past sins.

In 2002, Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson released Lilya 4-Ever, a jaw-dropping, wrenching journey into human trafficking from the perspective of a girl who couldnt locate an exit to her hell. It was a masterpiece of stomach-churning terror, sending a clear message about this volatile and still unrecognized epidemic.

Trade covers the same terrain, only now in place of Russia, the action centers on Mexico and the US, and the endless trail of corruption, greed, and disinterest in policing the massive population of traffickers. However, where Moodysson was occupied with realism and a creeping sense of dread, Trade plays like a slightly more culturally aware episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, taking great care to pander to the audience so as not to upset anyone more than a multiplex offering should allow.

Its difficult to punish Trade for its carelessness in honoring the reality of sexual slavery, since the film is addressing a crucial topic few dare to touch. No doubt, the film is disturbing in the way it demonstrates the violation of kidnapping and the prolonged anguish of imprisonment and abuse. The film will turn on a few lightbulbs, and this is a good thing. A right thing.

What frustrated me is the way Trade stoops to mouthbreathing aesthetics to get the job done. Be it an overblown faux symbolic display of shredded doll parts, the way the score blaringly underlines every moment of tension and despair, or the resolution of the story, which offers hope, but seems unfair to the reality of the crime. Thats not even addressing the last sequence of the film, where Trade wrongly assumes the viewer, after a two-hour buffet of the bad guys accomplishing every last of their goals, has a taste for bloodletting, and serves up a completely asinine statement of revenge/reality check. If this moment is for us to cheer for and consider on the drive home, then perhaps Trade is far worse than I assumed at first.

Trade prefers its characters react like illogical nimrods and its diatribes on the state of corruption be literal speeches, delivered by Kline as though he was being held at gunpoint. Director Marco Kreuzpaintner attempts to hammer home the operatic tragedy of the plot with splashy scenes of balletic suicide (quite the opposite of Lilya) and fanged portraits of evil, but Id trade every last moment of cheap manipulation for one single frame of authenticity.

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originally posted: 09/28/07 16:09:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2007 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2007 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

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  28-Sep-2007 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jan-2008



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Marco Kreuzpaintner

Written by
  Jose Rivera

  Kevin Kline
  Paulina Gaitan
  Alicja Bachleda
  Cesar Ramos

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