With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, May 08, 2015

SKIN TRADE reviewed: opens in limited theatrical release today

Magnet Releasing
Skin Trade
Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham
Written by Gabriel Dowrick, Steven Elder, and Dolph Lundgren
Starring Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren
USA/Thailand/Canada. 2014, 95 minutes

Skin Trade is an action/thriller about human trafficking that stars Tony Jaa, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jai White, and Ron Perlman. It begins limited theatrical release today (play dates here) and is also available for watching on demand (VOD info here).

In an outstanding opening sequence, Thai detective Tony Vitayakui (Tony Jaa), who arrives in a Lamborghini, busts part of a human trafficking operation in Thailand. He takes on multiple armed-guards using his belt as a nifty assistive device.

ony Jaa in SKIN TRADE, a Magnet Release.  Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Meanwhile, half-way around the world -- in New Jersey -- Detective Nick Cassidy (Dolph Lundgren) is after the brains of the operation, one Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman, sporting a hilarious eastern European accent). In a dockside shootout, he kills one of Dragovic's relatives. Naturally, Dragovic retaliates harshly against Cassidy and his family. Nothing like an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) shot into Cassidy's home to show just how pissed off Dragovic is.

Dragovic manages to get out of the U.S. and flee to Thailand. Cassidy inflicts severe damage on his operation to learn his whereabouts and takes off in hot pursuit. FBI Agent Eddie Reed (Michael Jai White) goes after Cassidy. After a Thai policeman and friend of Vitayukui is murdered, he too goes after Cassidy, believing him responsible.

Dolph Lundgren in SKIN TRADE, a Magnet Release.  Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing. 

There are the requisite number of action scenes, both unarmed and weapon-heavy ones. Sadly, as far as I'm concerned, the best one is Jaa's aforementioned fight at the beginning of the film. Besides fighting the human traffickers, Jaa's character fights Lundgren's and Lundren fights White's. Jaa is now 39 years old, and while the other two are long time practitioners of karate, White is about ten years older than Jaa, and Lundren is about ten years older than White. So there's an obvious degree of difference in speed and flexibility amongst the three. And the gun-fu action scenes where rather perfunctory.

The movie was clearly made primarily with the direct-to-video market in mind, hence the limited -- as opposed to wide -- theatrical release. As such it's passable fare. Some nude shots of lovely young Thai ladies help matters.

I'd say that for the discerning action fan, Skin Trade will be a bit of a let down. I must confess, though, that I did enjoy seeing Jaa, Lundgren (who also was one of the film's writers and producers). and White on screen together. Also Perlman, who seemed to be having a fun time.

Less demanding action junkies probably will find it quite enjoyable. They're also the most likely viewers to come back for the sequel, which is clearly indicated by this film's ending. Assuming. of course, that it gets made.

Skin Trade film site

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