REVIEW – Don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with Martin Kreuzpaintner’s film Trade. Before reviewing it, I wasn’t either. Now I understand why.
While Kreuzpaintner makes a noble effort to raise awareness of sexual slavery in his American theatrical debut, Trade falls short with its cringe-inducing melodrama, predictable plot and stale character development.
The movie is based on Peter Landesman’s controversial New York Times Magazine article “The Girls Next Door,” which was called into serious question by professional journalists for being under-sourced and embellished. Trade desperately tries to paint itself as a compelling film that deals with global issues, but it lacks the realism and cinematic prowess to do so.
The story begins in a poor Mexican village, where 13 year-old Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is abducted and sold as a sex-slave to a prostitution ring that operates locally. She befriends Veronica (Alicja Bachleda), a Polish immigrant who was promised by a Russian crime organization a new life in America for her and her son.
Their captors prepared to smuggle them into America, where they would be transported to a secret brothel in a quiet New Jersey neighborhood. They are constantly reminded that their family members will die if they try to escape or summon local authorities. When the border patrol busts them during their first attempt into the country, they remain silent.
The two girls are drugged, beaten and sexually abused during their arduous journey. While Monica is brutally raped early in the film, Adriana escapes because her captors plan on auctioning off her “virgin p—-” – the phrase is repeated enough times throughout the film to make it a lethal drinking game.
Still, Adriana’s virginity is not enough to save her from the other horrors of sexual slavery. In what is designed to be one of the more evocative scenes in the film, Adriana’s john leads her to a reed field for her services. As she is led away by her john toward an inevitably unspeakable act, the cinematography is hackneyed and rife with melodrama.
This scene has glaring inaccuracies in relation to Landesman’s article. It’s generally a good rule not to compare film adaptations of books on the work they were based on, but since Trade constantly reminds audiences in the opening credits, I feel obligated to scrutinize the factual errors in Kreuzpaintner’s version.
In the real world, Adriana would have been raped, regardless of her virginity. While sex rings go to great lengths to preserve the children’s virgin appearance, Landesman said, they also want their sex slaves to be well-trained and experienced. Children are raped for months as part of “training” so their customers are satisfied and come again.
Therefore, the whole quest to sell Adriana’s virginity is founded on nonsense. If Kreuzpaintner painted this realistic portrayal of sex acts, the film would be more effective.
Adriana’s teenage brother Jorge (Caesor Ramos) vows to rescue his sister once he learns of her terrible fate. Jorge manages to stay on his sister’s trail, often falling just a few steps behind her. When he notices an extremely square cop named Ray (Kevin Kline), Jorge convinces him to travel to New Jersey and find his sister.
Sporadic sequences of Ray chatting with his boring wife about their sick cat are probably the most realistic aspect of the film; only years of the soul-eroding experience that is domesticated living could produce such mundane conversation between a middle-aged couple.
At approximately two hours, Trade is a film that should have been condensed into a forty-five minute Lifetime original movie. There were several times when I found myself wishing that Viking-zombies would suddenly overrun the characters to liven up the story.
Unfortunately, the asinine climax of the film came when Ray and Jorge engage in a war to win back Adriana against dreadful Internet adversaries like “Little Buddha” and “South African Masta” on a Web site that auctions off children.
When it comes to seeing Trade, audiences will be disgusted at the time and money they wasted.
Jimmy Viola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.