'Skin Trade': Film Review

Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Although not quite on the "Expendables" level, this generic B-movie features a formidable cast

Dolph Lundgren plays a cop intent on revenge against the sex traffickers who murdered his family in this action thriller

Forget the perils of being a cop. If action movies are to be believed, the people truly in the most danger are their families.

Yes, the Dolph Lundgren starrer Skin Trade once again trots out the familiar cliche of a dedicated cop going rogue after his loved ones are slaughtered by bad guys. The still impressively chiseled if undeniably aged star plays New Jersey detective Nick Cassidy, who during a sting operation shoots and kills the son of the deliciously named Serbian sex trafficker Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman, sporting the thick accent without which no B-movie villain would be complete).

Viktor naturally wants revenge, so he dispatches his minions to shoot a missile into Nick's home, which kills his wife and daughter and lands him severely injured. Just not so severely injured that, much like Dwayne Johnson in Furious 7, it stops him from leaping out of his hospital bed to take matters into his own hands.

Having been informed by his police and FBI colleagues (Peter Weller, Michael Jai White) that Dragovic has skipped bail and fled to Thailand, Nick follows him to Bangkok where, after an initial misunderstanding — it's far too convoluted to go into — he teams up with Thai detective Tony (Tony Jaa, Ong Bak) and proceeds to decimate most of the city's criminal population.

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The screenplay, based on an idea of Lundgren's and written by him and two others (director John Hyams did an uncredited rewrite), is far more complicated than it needed to be, featuring enough plot twists and character reversals to fuel a dozen thrillers. But it hardly matters, since the film's main impetus is to provide a nonstop series of action sequences featuring its formidable leads.

While the endless shootouts prove predictably perfunctory — for hardened criminals and cops, no one seems to be able to hit their target — the fight scenes are often impressive. Jaa, who made his name in such ventures, displays still formidable skills, with his bouts in which he squares off against Lundgren and White among the highlights. Also thrilling is the sequence in which he dispatches a roomful of bad guys with only his belt as a weapon, although his quip after dropping one of them to his death from a balcony doesn't quite measure up: "Negotiation is over" is unlikely to enter the screen pantheon of such lines as "Go ahead, make my day."

At 57, Lundgren also proves that he's still got the chops for this sort of thing, even if his weathered face hasn't aged as well as his body. His character sporting a large facial scar from the explosion, he's nearly a comical sight as he lumbers through the streets of Bangkok looking like a gym-hardened Frankenstein's monster.

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It's all strictly by-the-numbers, more suitable for late night cable viewing with pizza and a six-pack than theatrical release, with director Ekachai Uekrongtham clearly having paid more attention to the casting than the onscreen mechanics. And for a film so seemingly interested in educating audiences about the evils of sex trafficking that it provides horrific statistics at the conclusion, it has no compunction about including copious doses of female nudity.

Production: BMP, SC Films International, Thor Pictures, Thorbak
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Ron Perlman, Peter Weller, Celina Jade
Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Screenwriters: Dolph Lundgren, Steven Elder, Gabriel Dowrick
Producers: Dolph Lundgren, Craig Baumgarten, Mike Selby
Director of photography: Ben Nott
Production designer: Ek Iemchuen
Editor: Victor Du Bois
Costume designer: Nirachara Wannalai
Composer: Jacob Groth
Casting: Anne McCarthy, Tarinee 'Aoi' Thaima

Rated R, 95 min.

 

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