Trade of Innocents: Film Review

Trade of Innocents Still - H 2012

Trade of Innocents Still - H 2012

This thriller about child sex trafficking is well-intentioned but dramatically stilted.

Christopher Bessette's thriller starring Mira Sorvino, follows a driven investigator who pursues child sex trafficking in Cambodia.

It’s a sad cinematic rule of thumb that the nobler its subject matter, the less successful a film is likely to be. Such is sadly again the case with Trade of Innocents, which deals with the vitally important issue of combating child sex trafficking. Supremely well intentioned, this impassioned effort written and directed by Christopher Bessette is ultimately a by-the-numbers thriller that hammers home its social message all too bluntly.

Set in Cambodia (doubled for by the all-purpose Bangkok), the film concerns the efforts of hard-driving investigator Alex Becker (Dermot Multroney) to root out child prostitution. He has a personal stake in the matter, as he and wife Claire’s (Mira Sorvino) seven-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered years earlier.

In the course of his investigation he pursues a variety of sleazy pimps, especially Duke (Trieu Tran), whose stable heartbreakingly includes a very young girl particularly coveted by his biggest client Malcom (John Billingsley), an endlessly sleazy American businessman with a taste for pre-pubescent virgins.

The plot’s procedural aspects are frequently interrupted by talky scenes in which Alex, interacting with various associates, explicitly details the horrifying statistics of human trafficking in a manner more educational than dramatically involving.

The storyline does feature several eye-opening moments, such as when Alex, pretending to be a doctor, calls out the pimp on the common scam of sewing up young girls so that they can be presented over and over again as virgins.

Mulroney delivers a stalwart performance as the driven investigator, and Sorvino, who works as a Goodwill Ambassador on the issue for the United Nations, delivers a suitably emotional turn. But the acting honors go to veteran film and television character actor Billingsley, so convincingly vile here that he may well want to only play good guy roles from now on.     

By the time Trade of Innocents reaches its not-so-suspenseful climax, audience members may well have tuned out of the action. It’s safe to say, though, that more than a few will be motivated to get involved in efforts to combat the problem, which is really the film’s primary raison d’etre anyway.

Opens Oct. 5 (Monterey Media)
Production: Dean River Productions, Thai Occidental Productions
CAST: Mira Sorvino, Dermot Mulroney, John Billingsley, Trieu Tran
Director/screenwriter: Christopher Bessette
Producers: Willaim Bolthouse, Laurie Bolthouse, Jim Schmidt
Executive producer: Dave Ross
Director of photography: Philip Hum
Editor: Diane Robb
Production designer: Mona Nahm
Composer: Timothy Hosman
Rated PG-13, 91 min.