The movie “Trade,” starring Kevin Kline (2007), is a riveting, true to life depiction of the human trafficking industry—no holds barred. On a number of occasions during the viewing experts struggled to contain their emotions and wondered if they could continue watching without taking a break to absorb it all. The movie is that good, that authentic. And human trafficking is that disturbing.
The characters are unforgettable. There's the 18 year old maverick son who, himself involved in street crime, discovers that his thirteen year old sister has been kidnapped and does not rest until he finds her. There are the trafficking victims, looking heavenward in hopes of survival. There is the Russian mafia and the Mexican mafia and the smaller players who play their part in this tale of terror. There's an American man, played by Kevin Kline, who is on a search for his missing daughter. There are the corrupt officials, the border crossings and the weeping parents. The sense of loss. The loss of innocence. The despair of the trapped. The passion desperation of the hero to save the lost (Silverman, 2007).
Discussion and Analysis
The story opens in the barrios of Mexico City, with an all-Spanish dialogue. We are instantly reminded of “City of Joy” in that this movie, too, unashamedly immersed me the third world and placed me at the ground level, in the culture, from start to finish. There is no glamour here. There are no special effects or edited content to dramatize or soften the story.
Based on a controversial 2004 New York Times Magazine article by Peter Landesman, “Trade” is essentially an odd-couple road movie in which the extras are perverts and the victim is virginity. When 13-year-old Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is kidnapped in Mexico City, her older brother, Jorge (a ferocious Cesar Ramos), assisted by an uptight Texas cop (Kevin Kline), tracks her abductors to New Jersey and an Internet sex auction.
Presenting Mexico as a country where everyone is corrupt and all visitors are fair game, Jose Rivera's highly improbable and sensationalized screenplay leaves its actors no room for authenticity. Marco Kreuzpaintner directs with commendable energy, but squanders Daniel Gottschalk's gold-dust-strewn images on hyperventilating voyeurism and an ending that sticks to your shoes, if not your heart. His intentions may be laudable but his goals are conflicted: in seeking to educate as well as tease, he ends up doing neither.
Good intentions may have killed more films than miscasting. The newest case in point is Trade, a human trafficking story that comes to screens with no end of good reasons for its existence. As specialists in moral outrage and thinly disguised prurience have known for decades, there is little in the field of human drama that grabs attention like the idea of innocent young (preferably attractive) women being kidnapped and auctioned off into slavery.
As an updated version of a classic 'this could be your daughter' sold-into-bondage story, Trade arrives on the scene with at least the appearance of higher ...