Hey gang, Valkor here. Nowadays, if there’s one thing that’ll make me pause whatever it is I’m doing… well almost anything… ahem, it’s a new Dolph Lundgren flick. The last film to hit my desk, Puncture Wounds, was a pretty decent Serafini film that worked for me, though Lundgren’s “brostache” didn’t. For this round of directing duties, Serafini is out and enter Ekachai Uekrongtham for “Skin Trade”; the director’s name might be a mouthful, but he brings along a few familiar faces. But does the film measure up? Spoilers ahead, so beware!
Skin Trade follows the exploits of Nick Cassidy (Lundgren), a Jersey cop looking to take down and bring in the boss of a major Serbian crime syndicate. After tailing a snitch, he learns that the Serb leader Dragovic (Ron Perlman - Bad Ass) is in town to meet a shipment. Cassidy along with agent Reed (Michael Jai White – Falcon Rising) and a band of officers go into the shipyard with guns blazing, And through all the gunfire, Dragovic’s youngest son is killed, trying to protect his father. Oh and in that shipment? How about a bunch of dead women, whom if they were to have survived the trip, would have been used in the sex trafficking trade.
Dragovic is taken in, but released on bail and makes for a hasty retreat to safer waters – namely Cambodia, where he’s already set up through his human trafficking business. But before he goes, his men pay Cassidy and his family a visit, killing his wife and daughter but leaving Cassidy behind to suffer. Full of rage, Cassidy seeks revenge against Dragovic and follows him to Cambodia. But so does Reed, who meets with local cop Tony (Tony Jaa – told you there were familiar names in this), who also fights against human sex traffickers with his girlfriend Min (Celina Jade), who works undercover. I should point out that Min was also a victim of the sex trade and doesn’t want to see other young girls fall victim to this practice. Both Reed and Tony work together to track down Cassidy, but unbeknownst to Tony, Reed has ulterior motives; he uses his own gun, takes out Tony’s partner and then shoots himself, blaming it all on Cassidy. This sets Tony off to get revenge for his best friend. So now you have Tony after Cassidy, Cassidy after Dragovic with Reed in the middle to muck things up. The big question is: how does it all end? With lots of bullets, explosions and dudes kicking the shit out of each other, with a side of boobs! As for the story? You’ll have to find out on your own.
The film doesn’t stop with the names mentioned above; Peter Weller gets in on the action (Robocop, The Dark Knight Returns) as well as Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Tekken), who also gets a nice cameo. A lot of interesting names have been brought in for this and that right there makes Skin Trade all the more interesting. But the big question is: is it worth your time?
Skin Trade was a little rough getting into for the first 30 minutes because it tosses a lot at you. But once you get past that then it starts to come together… but at the same time it doesn’t. Think of this film like a patchwork quilt – some areas work better together than others. And the parts that work, work exceptionally well. The story is just “OK” and I was kind of expecting something of a tale that dealt directly with the skin trade as opposed to it being all about revenge with the skin trade stuff woven in. No hate because I rather enjoyed the revenge plot. It almost reminds you of “Taken”, but grittier! The action is top-notch and Tony Jaa vs. Dolph Lundgren vs. Michael Jai White (not at the same time) – wooooo!! It’s so much fun to watch, especially Jai White who was dukes it out with Jaa in business attire. The choreography on the fight scenes was a little choppy when it came to Dolph’s fight, but smooth as butter when Jai stepped in. The ending leaves things open to a sequel… or maybe not, who knows. I wouldn’t mind if there was a second film produced. The acting is also just “OK”, nothing that’ll blow your mind, but everyone puts on a fine performance to see this film through to the end. Overall, Skin Trade is a solid Saturday afternoon, just chilling at home with a brew kind of film.
I mentioned above that the beginning was kind of rough and it is because it tosses a lot at you at one time rather than panning it out throughout the film. That first 30 minutes sets everything up for Cassidy’s revenge plot while trying to squeeze in all of the major characters. I think the story would have played out much better had it simply focused on Cassidy from the jump rather than switching between him, Dragovic and Tony. While the opening sets up the whole Southeast Asia sex trade, Jaa’s character or even his role as a sex trade officer isn’t really that important until later in the film. And had it been cut entirely and he was just a cop, it would work even better. I know there’s a connection between him also fighting against Dragovic (because of his role in the sex trade), but I think things could have played out better were we introduced to his character after Cassidy’s run in with Dragovic.
Cassidy’s face – GOD DAMN!! OK it’s not that messed up, but it’s pretty beaten up.
Skin Trade is available now on Amazon Instant Video, but you can expect a wider release in early May. While it won’t rank high as one of my Dolph Lundgren favorites, it’s still a pretty decent action film worth checking out. And out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving Skin Trade a solid 3.