Sign me up. It’d be fun, maybe even amusing, to watch the one-time Ivan Drago aging less gracefully but with great enthusiasm.
But Skin Trade proved to be much more than that.
In Bangkok, a Cambodian teenager is kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. In New Jersey, Detective Nic Cassidy (Lundgren) clashes with crime syndicate boss Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman), killing one of Dragovic’s sons. Dragovic retaliates by killing Cassidy’s wife, blowing up his house, kidnapping his daughter, and leaving the detective for dead. Back in Asia, Tony Vitayaku (Tony Jaa) takes down a room full of sex traffickers, balances a relationship with his girlfriend and informant, Min (Celina Jade), who is involved in the trade herself.
Honestly, if it wouldn’t be for the way that Lundgren’s story shows the sex trafficking process from start to finish, it might be a run-of-the-mill thriller. Lundgren isn’t a great actor, and Jaa spoke enough English to interact with Lundgren’s Cassidy when the American traces his daughter’s kidnappers to Asia, but please, they’re not winning Oscars. It’s not supposed to win an Oscar, but it’s supposed to provide a message.
This is Taken with an agenda. It’s an agenda that says, ‘we’re all complicit in the sex trafficking of the little girl in Cambodia, and the women who can choose slave or sex labor around the world.’ When we look the other way, when we fail to care about how much things cost or where they come from or who profits, we are part of the problem.
In an interesting twist, Cassidy cares when he’s just a cop, but he cares when it’s his daughter on the line. What would it look like if we took seriously that the people around us were our brothers and sisters, that when Jesus told us to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” that he meant all people, even the ones that didn’t believe what we believe, the ones who don’t look anything like us, and the ones who live in countries we’ll never visit?
Skin Trade is violent, explosive, and entertaining, but if you don’t walk away from it considering what you’re supposed to do to end the sex trade, then you missed the point.