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All Critics (16)
| Top Critics (4)
| Fresh (4)
| Rotten (12)
If you like your martial arts films to be action-packed, but also unironically simplistic, and thoughtlessly violent, then you will really enjoy Skin Trade.
Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa star in this tedious, formulaic actioner.
If bare-knuckle fights are what you seek, director Ekachai Uekrongtham certainly delivers.
A no-frills, no-winks throwback to the mid-1980s heyday of the American-style action movie, crossed with the one-on-one, mixed-martial-arts sensibilities of today's direct-to-video action flicks.
It's nostalgic fun to watch genuine martial arts experts fighting each other on the screen.
One area where the script unexpectedly shines is an ending which completes the story, respects the reality of loss and sets up a sequel I sincerely hope we get to see.
It's an undeniable kick to watch Jaa, ever graceful and balletic, getting thrown around like a puny rag doll by his man-mountain co-star, even if Skin Trade is a little too ham-fisted to pack any serious punch.
Director Ekachai Uekrongtham strands Lundgren and Jaa in a series of poorly edited, confusingly shot gunfights that make little use of either man's talents.
Offering literally nothing original, Skin Trade is just a bargain bin action vehicle for an aging star. Still, if you're cool with that, Dolph will be more than happy to beat the crap out of some villains for your amusement.
Skin Trade is a throwback to the one-man-army actioners of the '80s, sprinkled with updated stats on human trafficking.
"Skin Trade" doesn't follow through on its potential for horror, quickly devolving into a roughhouse revenge picture that consumes cliché by the pound.
Not a great showcase for Tony Jaa, but Dolph Lundgren makes Skin Trade worth watching for action fans.
What tickles me about this is the fact that Dolph apparently read about the horrors of human trafficking, mainly one case where some girls were left for dead inside a vehicle on the US/Mexican border, and decided to bring it to the worlds attention. A noble thing to do for sure, only he did this via this utter pile of dribble of an action flick. The fact that the human trafficking part of the plot is only window dressing for a simple revenge thriller says it all really. It doesn't bring the horror of human slavery to the forefront of cinema, it uses it simply for a good plot device, something new to have fights about. What also made me laugh was reading about a possible sequel to this shit, the movie has an open ending so indeed you could make another, but who the fuck is gonna watch a sequel to this?? (yes I realise the irony of me saying that after I just watched this movie, move along).
So the plot...its all about revenge, done. OK to be more specific, the film tries to be clever by setting up multiple plots at different times by switching back and forth between them at different times until they all eventually blend into one. Nice idea yes, badly done? oh hell yes, its confusing and erratic with bad editing. Out of nowhere you get quick cuts to someone doing something, before it then just as quickly cuts back to someone else. You're left thinking, what the hell was that?! Anyway Cassidy (Dolph) is after uber bad guy Dragovic (Ron Perlman) in the US, in a raid along with Reed (Jai White) and Costello (Peter Weller) they capture him successfully. Dragovic's son is killed during this take down so he has Cassidy's family killed. Dragovic is eventually released on bail and flees the US to Thailand, Cassidy follows now out for revenge. US police want Cassidy stopped believing him to be dangerous after he kills Dragovic's attorney, so in Thailand Tony (Tony Jaa) is put on the case to arrest him. There is more but I can't be bothered to explain it.
So essentially what we have here is a pretty convoluted plot which spans from the US to Thailand in an obvious lazy way to merely include Tony Jaa. Although you have to give kudos to the casting, its pretty damn impressive for such a throw away B-movie. But again its all very shallow, they've clearly only managed to grab Peter Weller for a couple days or less to shoot a few scenes, hell it didn't even need to be him because his character does nothing of importance. They obviously had to chance to nab a big name and took it. Same could almost be said for Michael Jai White, his character isn't really any big deal, he's barely involved for the most part, again obviously just there for a fight against Jaa. They even got Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in there...but again! its a throw away part that could of been played by anyone, of no importance at all.
Of course most of these movies are all the same, and when it comes to the old action stars and more modern martial artists (Jai White, Adkins etc...), the films are usually excuses to have match-ups between the famous stars (plot worked in around them). On that note the film delivers just about, there are two main fights, between Dolph and Jaa and Jaa and White. The best fight is easily between White and Jaa, two different styles and two polar opposite physiques make for a real cracker. Its almost on par with Bruce Lee taking on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in terms of physiques, Jaa being a slim, shorter, almost scrawny fellow, whilst White is quite tall and very very thick in build. The other fight between Jaa and Dolph is a much slower affair mainly because Dolph is getting on, but its still a solid battle. Again Dolph is much bigger and thicker (not as thick as White) but his speed lets him down (and age). The location for this fight (in a rice/grain mill at night) makes it a bit more visually exciting though, much slicker and more moody.
Apart from those two good fights the rest is pretty much the usual nonsense you'd see in any low grade action movie. The bad guys are all dressed in black and lounge around in very lavish establishments, there is always a tonne of henchmen just waiting to get shot or beat up, lots of semi-nude females in strip clubs, lots of aimless gunfights, the good guys never receive any major injuries in high risk parts of the body, and plenty of chases through busy streets.
The entire production is one big cliche really, its all just such pants I really don't know why anyone bothers making it. Some of it is just so stupid too, but its filmed in a serious manner! Dolph's character is in a hospital bed at one point, really beat up badly, but that's not gonna stop him. He just tears everything off himself, all the monitors and bandages etc...just gets up and walks out with no one noticing. He then proceeds to his home, which had been blown up prior, and is able to just walk into the heavily damaged building with ease, no police, nothing, just a single strip of police tape to keep the public out. He also gets stabbed in his abdomen at one point but that doesn't really go anywhere, he just walks that off. I also noticed that these cops have a tendency to get away with anything they like in this universe, both Jaa and Dolph's character kill plenty of people without any repercussions. Sure they were bad guys but still, actually Cassidy killed Dragovic's attorney didn't he, and other innocents by the look of things, when he blew up the restaurant he found him in, sooo...huh?
End of the day I really shouldn't moan about this because I knew what it was, what it was gonna be, a shoddy B-movie that goes straight to DVD (if its lucky). The main question I find myself asking is why in the hell is Dolph still making these types of movies? The man is clearly too old for this shit, he clearly cannot run at all, you can plainly see this from his movements and the fact they always cut away from him running. It really is becoming pretty embarrassing to watch this kind of stuff now because its really becoming very obvious. Look Dolph, you're past it, just accept it and retire from action flicks, its ridiculous. I only recommend this for the usage of Jaa and White, fights only that is, the rest is like a pair of unwashed pants, it stinks.
Far better than I thought it would be. With a more meaty role for Tony Jaa, and more English dialog, you see him flex his martial arts muscles with ease in this. Tony Jaa would not be out of place in the next Expendables movie.
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