Friday, December 12, 2008

TRADE - earnest but still compelling sex trade drama

TRADE is a slightly exploitative, certainly rose-tinted drama about sex slaves smuggled into the US via Mexico and auctioned off on a website. Based on an article published in the New York Times, the movie tracks a 13-year old girl called Adriana who's kidnapped by the Russians and freighted into a suburban house in New Jersey where the exchange will take place. The movie is pretty unflinching in showing how these operations work - from casual rape, to "picking up pocket change" en route. Where the movie gets a little ridiculous is in its neat coincidences. Adriana's loyal brother Jorge manages to stalk her kidnappers all the way to the Mexican border where he conveniently hooks up with the world's kindest cop (Kevin Kline). Together, they follow Adriana's convoy to New Jersey where the cop will actually front the money to buy Adriana back. Surely the grim reality of sex slavery is incompatible with this sort of fairy-tale (or religious redemptive) ending?

I have to admit that these hokey narrative tricks help keep the movie palatable and compelling. The relationship between Ray and Jorge leavens the didactic material. Still, TRADE never really rises above a competently made TV movie and packs none of the punch of Lukas Moodyddon's brutal

TRADE played Sundance 2007 and Berlin 2008. It was released last year in the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. It opened earlier this year in Singapore, Portugal, Israel and Mexico and is currently on release in the UK.

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