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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 25%
Just Average: 18.75%
Pretty Crappy37.5%
Sucks: 18.75%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Imagine "Hardcore" Sans The Whimsy"
1 stars

“Trade” is a film that strolls right up to that fine line that separates a harrowing expose of a worldwide tragedy from a grotesque exploitation of the same, trips over said line and then spend over two hours wallowing in the mud without any rhyme, reason or anything resembling a point. This is one of the most unpleasant films in recent memory–the kind where you leave the theater filled only with the desire to take a long, hot shower with the decontaminating foam from “Silkwood”–and despite the best intentions of the filmmakers, most viewers will come away from it feeling more enraged towards them than to the monsters at its center.

Those monsters, by the way, are human traffickers who earn their money by kidnapping young women and children and selling them as sex slaves to whichever pervert offers up the highest bid when they are being auctioned off on the Internet. As the film opens, we see two innocents being dragged into this world against their will–Veronica (Alicja Bachleda) is a young mother who has flown from Poland to Mexico City with the promise of modeling work that falls through the minute she is chloroformed at the airport and shoved into a waiting van while Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is a 13-year-old Mexican girl who is simply snatched off the streets while riding the bicycle that her older brother, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), gave her for her birthday. (Jorge earns his money by luring tourists into alleys with the promise of erotic delights so that he and his pals can mug them.) Distraught, Jorge follows their captors as they make the journey across the border and slips across by hiding in a strange car trunk. Luckily for him, the car is owned by Ray (Kevin Kline), a Federal officer who is looking into the sex slave ring for his own reasons.

Once everyone gets across the border, the story splits between following Veronica and Adriana on their hellish journey to New Jersey, which is where they will be auctioned off from, and following Ray and Jorge as they try to reach them before Adriana can be auctioned off and disappears forever. With Veronica and Adriana, they are ritually abused, Veronica is frequently raped (though Adriana is spared this as her virginity is her key selling point) and otherwise mistreated. As for Ray and Jorge, they continue to investigate but when Ray reports what he knows to the Feds, they inform him that even though they know the exact locale of where the auction will take place, they aren’t going to do anything about it because they want bigger fish than that bust will yield. Frustrated, the two enter the auction themselves–using a computer from the business center of a local Holiday Inn, mind you–and manage to win. The downside, Ray discovers when he goes to pick up his “prize,” is that the woman in charge has her suspicions and wants Ray to offer conclusive proof of his credentials as a degenerate pederast, if you know what I mean.

Right from the start, it is evident that “Trade” wants to do for the flesh trade what “Traffic” did for drugs–offer up a multi-level and multi-story look at its effects as seen through the eyes of the victims, the profiteers and those doggedly trying to protect the former and prosecute the latter. That sounds like a promising idea for a film but “Trade” never comes close to pulling it off. Putting the essential sleaziness of the material aside, “Trade” is a terrible film simply because it is an ineptly made take on a subject that deserves much better. For a film like this to work, it needs to be smart and essentially serve as a form of journalism to educate us on the subject at hand. However, if “Trade” were a newspaper or magazine article, it would be the kind that would be sent back from the editors covered in red pencil marks and an admonition to try again and do better next time. The screenplay by Jose Rivera is a jumble of contrived situations, half-assed ironies (ooh, even the degenerate white slavers say their prayers) and head-scratching implausibilities–does even the most suspicious critic of the Department of Justice really believe that after being presented with conclusive proof that a 13-year-old girl was about to be sold into sexual slavery on U.S. soil, they would simply let it happen instead of staging a big raid that would get them plenty of positive media attention? As for director Marco Kreutzpaintner, he handles the material in an equally ham-fisted manner–after seeing the film, I read that co-producer Roland Emmerich, the hack auteur of “Independence Day” and “Godzilla” was originally scheduled to direct the film and quite frankly, I can’t imagine that the end result would have been any different if he had.

Of course, the sleaziness “Traffic” was a film that was filled with anger towards the futility of the war on drugs and sorrow towards the ones caught up in their insidious web. “Trade” wants us to think that it is doing the same thing but it is more concerned with titillating audiences with a parade of scenes so gratuitously unpleasant that they make “Hardcore” seem like a walk in the park by comparison. Hardly a scene goes by without some new depravation being foisted upon us–numerous rape scenes, a ersatz brothel for underage prostitutes situated in a cornfield for which we receive an extended guided tour, a extra-creepy child molester trying to keep his drugged charge awake long enough to get him out to his truck–and while it is clear that the filmmakers are trying to push our buttons, it soon becomes clear that the only way they can do that is by coming up with increasingly repellent images and ideas and as a result, “Trade” comes across as less like a serious drama and more like a geek show that increasingly shows its strain as it tries to continually top its own loathsomeness with plot twists that defy any sense of credibility or coherence.

Look, I am not suggesting that I would want to see a sugar-coated depiction of the world of white slavery but there is a way of doing it without coming across as being as creepy and repellent as the subject matter itself but no one involved with “Trade” seems to have any idea of how to go about it. This is an ugly, stupid and hateful film that takes an important subject matter and treats it in such a coarse and grotesque manner that it makes those “To Catch A Predator” specials look like a model of subtle and responsible journalism by comparison.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15567&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/28/07 00:00:00
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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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