Movie Review: Dolph meets Tony Jaa fighting the “Skin Trade”

jaaReputation suggests you could conjure a half-decent B-movie out of Dolph Lundgren and martial arts dynamo Tony “Ong Bak” Jaa. Especially if their supporting cast includes Ron Perlman as a Slavic mobster, Peter Weller as a Jersey-accented cop, Michael Jai White as a Fed and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“Memoirs of a Geisha,””47 Ronin”) as a corrupt Thai official mixed up in the “Skin Trade.”
The subject and setting (Thailand, Cambodia, New Jersey) mean there are plenty of scenes of scantily-clad (schoolgirl stripper outfits) and unclad sex slaves and pole dancers to interrupt the shootouts, explosions and athletic Jaa-brawls.
But “Skin Trade,” a project Lundgren co-wrote and has been trying to film for years, feels so dated and over-familiar that “half-decent” always seems just out of reach.
Lundgren is Nick, a Jersey cop hot on the trail of a human trafficking ring led by Viktor Dragovic (Perlman) and his four sons. The death of one of those sons makes the fight “personal,” meaning that Nick’s family is doomed, and so is Nick, judging by the bullet hits he takes before his house is consumed in flames.
But Nick peels himself out of intensive care and sets off to track down bad guys.
For Thai Detective Vitayakul (Jaa), the case is a matter of personal and national pride. Southeast Asia’s shame — its sex trade, which parents sell children into — and the detective’s Vietnamese girlfriend/informant (Celina Jade) are in danger.
Nick is being hunted by the Feds (Michael Jai White) who enlist the Thais, as Nick himself hunts the Serbs who wiped out his family.
On finding a container ship full of dead skin trade immigrants, Lundgren’s Nick threatens to “wrap every dead body
from that container around your neck.” And Jaa’s detective spits “Negotiation is over” before one summary execution.
The one-liners are more obvious than pithy, and there’s something more unsettling than ever about cops pumping one last round into a disarmed bad guy. It’s as out of date as insisting that the bad guys are Serbian, “with no ‘code,'” when the Russian embassy is who they run to when arrests come down. Let them be Russians. They’re still recent history’s best villains.
Jaa is getting a little older, and the director is best known for the sensitive Thai fighter-who-wants-a-sex-change bio pic “Beautiful Boxer,” so Jaa’s always-amazing punch-outs are a tad muted.
But “Skin Trade” still benefits from the total commitment of the players. Even if we know it’s a B-movie and roll our eyes at every corny line, every obvious direction the action and story travel in, they never do.


MPAA Rating: R for strong violence throughout, disturbing sexual content, nudity, drug use and language |

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Celina Jade, Michael Jai White, Ron Perlman, Peter Weller, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Credits: Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, written by
Gabriel Dowrick, Steven Elder and Dolph Lundgren. A Magnet release.

Running time: 1:35

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.