Vital Topic Sold Short by Weak Story
Have you ever thought much about the plight of children who are abducted to supply the demand generated by our society’s obsession with sex? Here’s some startling statistics:
Sobering, isn’t it? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you think the problem is bad here, try going to
Trade is the story of a handful of children and teens whose captivity begins in
When Jorge learns, via his local Mexican mafia connections, the truth of what has happened to his sister, he steals a friend’s car and chases the human traders and their cargo to
The film is based on real facts, researched by and reported in The New York Times. Those facts are important, and it’s commendable that the film highlights them in a brutally honest fashion. It’s worth knowing that otherwise decent people cooperate with ruthless thugs in the sex trade because the money is so good. It’s disturbing, certainly—in the way that harsh realities are—to understand that there are way-stations on the underground prison railroad where average citizens causally barter for their ten minutes of sexual mastery over powerless juveniles. And if it comes as any surprise that the house down on the end of your block, which looks like the home of a pretty prosperous businessman, could be harboring a cell block of sex slaves—well, wake up. This is one of the most shameful sides of
It’s clear, too, that the sex trade is an important topic for all those involved in the film, in spite of the project’s shoestring budget. Kevin Kline plays Ray; Roland Emmerich produces, taking a break from his normal blockbuster lineup (Stargate, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow); and Jose Rivera, fresh from an Oscar nomination for The Motorcycle Diaries, writes the script.
But as is often the case with a Message Movie—which this clearly is, as is any film that concludes with encouragement to act on what you now “know”—Trade forgets that Message isn’t job one, Story is. And director Marco Kreuzpaintner hasn’t been able to helm the story itself in either a compelling or a believable fashion. It’s easier to believe the facts themselves—such as the methods of sedation that the sex traffickers employ, or the idea of a man plunking down 25 grand at a truck stop for a young male sex toy—than it is to believe that Ray and his nemeses have any idea how to get to
It’s a shame, too, because this film will be seen by fewer people than it should; but it would be dishonest of me to tell you that this is not only a vital subject but a good film as well.
And at this point I will mention that the statistics with which I opened with were not cribbed from Trade’s production notes. They come from notes for another film that opens a few weeks from now, Gone Baby Gone, which also touches on similar subjects—but which happens to be an excellent and more intellectually complex (and honest) film. Knowing the right thing to do about such things is never as simple as it seems; but Trade, as a Message Movie, might have been better off incarnated as a documentary.
Nonetheless, keep an eye out for Cesar Ramos, who plays Jorge, and Marco Perez, who plays the conflicted herder of captives. Both outshine Kline here by miles—and that’s saying a lot, one way or the other.
Trade is rated R for “disturbing sexual material involving minors, violence including a rape, language and some drug content.” Absolutely. But if you’re an adult, none of that is an excuse not to see this film. Avoid it if you will because it’s a so-so film; but don’t let yourself off the hook for any other reason. All of us in this country are a part of this problem, and we need to understand what we have wrought. This kind of stuff is, in great part, why so much of the world hates us.
It’s worth noting, too, that I’m not just some prude who has some repressed notions of sex that I want to foist on others. I’ve had my own fill of our nation’s pandering to porn and prostitution, and it’s all raw filth motivated by greed. I understand sex addiction, and equally understand that it’s nothing to make excuses for—and there’s no wink-wink nudge-nudge about it. It’s sick, and it’s wrong. I know of what of what I speak; and anyone who thinks even a “little porn” never hurt anybody needs an education. A mind warped is a hard thing to fix.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Greg attended a press screening of Trade.