Trade (2007)

Rated: R
Grade: ?FAA=A
Budget: $12 million (estimated)
Box Office: $214,000 US, $670,000 million Int’l, DVD N/A

Directed by: Marco Kreuzpaintner, but the real name to know for this movie is Producer Rolan Emmerich, who produced 10,000 BC, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and Independence Day.
Starring: Kevin Kline, Cesar Ramos, Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Paulina Gaitan, Kathleen Gati, Pavel Lychnikoff, Anthony Crivello, Zack Ward, and Milla Jovovich.

While searching for his own daughter, Ray Sheridan crosses paths with Jorge, whose sister has been abducted by an international sex slave cartel and is being transported to New Jersey to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Together, they must try to rescue her along with a young Polish mother who thought she was coming to America for a job.

Entertainment Value: ?
I refuse to grade this film on this particular criteria, partially out of principle and partially out of ambivalence. I knew in advance that I didn’t want to watch this film, and yet I knew that I should do so. I was correct. Few films have made me so angry, afraid, frustrated, and depressed as this one. And yet, I would encourage everyone to see it because it vividly portrays several character stories connected around the least-discussed form of evil in America. Entertainment is not the reason you watch this movie, which is largely an indictment of the very notion that entertainment is worthwhile.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sexuality F, Violence F, Language F, Illegality F
What makes the violence in this film so much worse than the violence in the vast majority of American films is that it is extremely realistic violence against women. Every element of superficial content in this move other than profanity is presented in a way that will disgust you rather than tempt you. For instance, there is no nudity that I recall (thankfully), but the sex content is nonetheless vivid and disturbing.

Significant Content: A
At first, I was conflicted how to rate this portion, because the movie is so mixed about the law, the sex-slave trade itself, and the hopelessness of these victims. But then I rethought it, and I realized that this is a movie that vividly portrays justice and injustice like a laser beam. To show evil and to show it as evil, without luster or varnish, is indeed a public service, and this movie does that. The comparison between love and hate, usually masquerading as selfishness or indifference to others, is portrayed strikingly here.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Who could grade it otherwise? I was baffled by Christianity Today’s review of this movie because I was gripped throughout not only by the plot but by the fascinating characters involved, whose behavior I found quite authentic. Although it was a film with a point, it was still clearly a film, not a documentary, and I was captivated, mostly because I was horrified all the way through.

Discussion Questions:
~The film’s makers say in the extras that they specifically wanted to tell a character story, not engage in an educational documentary about forced sex slavery in America. Why do you think this is the case? Do you think a documentary would have had more or less impact on viewers? If it’s true that facts motivate us less than fictionalized drama, would that make it educationally immoral to use mere facts? How does respect for the viewer become an issue here? What is the difference between propaganda and information, and what distinguishes good from bad propaganda? How might this line of thinking apply to other areas of life, such as evangelism?
~What is the purpose of the extra-long opening musical montage/credits? How does that facilitate (or not) the end purpose of making this as much a problem next door as possible?
~In the beginning of the film, Jorge and his friends victimize an American tourist. In what ways it that different or the same as the “big” crime he ends up trying to fight? Based on his enticement tactics in that situation, how is Jorge different from Vadim?
~Is the violence shown in this movie more or less dangerous for someone, let’s say a teenager, to watch than the violence in a movie like Rambo? Is it worse to show very real violence that revolts the viewer or very unrealistic violence that entertains the viewer? Also consider the memory effect and the losing of innocence.
~Which is a greater form of corruption: the way these girls and boys are victimized or what became of Kline’s daughter? Why so?
~Though this movie focuses primarily on the pain caused to the girls and boys themselves, do you think the evil of kidnapping and trafficking is even more offensive because of what it does to their parents and those who love them?
~What conclusion, if any, do you draw from the absurdly poor box office performance of this movie? Does this surprise you about American film audiences?
~How do you react to the various elements of religious depiction in this film?
~Which character in the film is the most Christlike? Are there any footprints of redemption anywhere in this film? How do you react to the ending? Does it make you hopeful or just as depressed and frustrated as before?
~Does the fear of having your own children abducted obsess you? How do you balance that with reason and faith?
~The film ends by giving a figure of 50,000 to 100,000 people smuggled into the United States each year, mostly for sex purposes. This number is highly debated, but a lower figure in the low teens would have been easily accurate. Why do you think the producers chose to go with such a high number that invites skepticism rather than a lower number that is still horrifying?
~“We are not finding victims in the U.S. because we’re not looking for them,” quotes a State Department publication. What do you think of this?
~Does a movie like this make you want to do something? If so, you could contact Trafficking AZ, Catholic Charities, or Protect Child
for more information.
Overall Grade: A
As I said at the beginning, you don’t want to watch this film. No one does. But I recommend you do anyway.

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