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dir Marco Kreuzpaintner
scr Jose Rivera
with Cesar Ramos, Kevin Kline, Alicja Bachleda, Paulina Gaitan, Marco Pérez, Tim Reid, Linda Emond, Kate del Castillo, Guillermo Iván, José Sefami, Zack Ward, Pasha D Lychnikoff
release US 28.Sep.07, UK 12.Dec.08
Dirty business: Gaitan (above), Ramos and Kline (below)
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
BERLIN FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This involving film is weakened by a script that tries to create a formulaic thriller out of an important subject matter. Yes, we need more movies that expose the realities of human trafficking, but a more organic approach would be much more effective.
Jorge (Ramos) is a wheeling-dealing 17-year-old in Mexico City who claims to be a good boy but secretly preys on tourists. When his 13-year-old sister Adriana (Gaitan) goes missing, he learns that she's being trafficked to New Jersey to be auctioned to the highest bidder. So he goes after her. Things get tricky on the US border when he runs into, Ray (Kline), a police officer. But Ray is haunted by his own missing daughter, so he decides to drive Jorge to New Jersey.
To call this plot contrived is an understatement. It's so riddled with contrivances and coincidences that it feels like a rushed attempt to string together a story that says everything possible about human trafficking. Even a basic reworking of the narrative would have given it a bit more believability. As a result, characters are simplistic, messages are pushy and everything ultimately feels badly cliched.
That said, director Kreuzpaintner develops a vivid visual style, nicely capturing the changing landscape and drawing out engaging performances. Ramos is a little flat in the central role, but develops strong chemistry with Kline, while Gaitan has her own quiet connection with Bachleda, as a young Polish mother also caught in the web of forced prostitution. The villains, on the other hand, are uncomplicated snarling, spitting monsters, most prominently Perez as the guy escorting his "cargo" across the continent.
As the film slips into a road movie, it becomes a bit more interesting, even though the dialog and pacing never quite match up. The filmmakers force the emotional and political themes every chance they get. But the issue itself is strong enough to generate all the resonance and righteous outrage without such corny moralising. And in the end, it all feels so constructed that even important side comments (such as how the cops are more concerned about following the money trail than rescuing the victims) fall through the cracks.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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