Intense drama about gangs exploiting human cargo is horrifyingly realistic
Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner
Cast: Kevin Kline, Cesar Ramos Ceballos and Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Opens Sept. 28 in wide release.
1 hr. 59 min. R
Less complex than “Traffic” so it has an easier time of sustaining its emotional focus, “Trade” is about human traffic especially the involuntary variety. It shows how a woman and a girl are “acquired” by a gang in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S., along with other captives, to be sold to the highest bidder on the Internet.
Based on a New York Times Magazine story, “Trade” was written by Jose Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) and directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner, whose last film was the gay coming-out drama “Summer Storm.”
Two women from Poland, who were persuaded to travel to the U.S. via Mexico City, are kidnapped at the airport when they arrive. One is killed trying to escape. But the other, Veronica, is raped and taken by truck to the border between Juarez and El Paso.
Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) has just turned 13. She’s given a bicycle by her 17-year-old brother, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), who says he’s working as a tour guide but has fallen in with a gang of thieves. Their mother doesn’t want Adriana riding the bike, and as soon as she does, Adriana is kidnapped and sent to the border with Veronica, a Thai boy and a Brazilian woman.
Jorge gets a lead on the kidnappers and learns the ring sends children to New Jersey to be sold to pedophiles. Jorge spots their truck and follows it to Juarez. By the time he finds the truck again, its occupants have moved on. But an American, Ray Sheridan (Kevin Kline) is searching the house where the captives were held.
They seem to have limited information to go on, speaking of “New Jersey” as if it were a specific address. But they join together in pursuit of their common goal. The captives have some stomach-churning experiences along the way. In one scene at a kind of open-air whorehouse, Kreuzpaintner is able to suggest volumes without showing much of anything. The whole movie is like a less graphic “Hostel” that’s more horrifying because it feels real.
While Ray is a sympathetic character, Kline doesn’t use any of his usual affability to make him that way. He’s more mature and serious than he’s ever been on screen before, even in dramas.
With only minor work in Mexico to his credit, Ramos has the looks and the skills. It’s hard to imagine him not having a major film career.
There are a few too many coincidences in the script and things may be resolved a bit too neatly, Hollywood style. But a couple of final twists leave you shaken, if not stirred. And there’s enough gritty realism along the way that you don’t have to leave the theater in a fit of depression to have felt the impact and gotten the message.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 28, 2007