Cinema Review: Skin Trade | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Skin Trade

Studio: Magnolia
Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham

May 06, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Nick Cassidy is an NYPD detective working to bring down a human trafficking ring. When his targets massacre his family and frame him for murder, Nick tracks the killers to Bangkok where he teams up with Tony, a Thai cop investigating the same syndicate. Violence ensues.

Anyone who reads the above description, or sees the poster or the trailer for Skin Trade knows the movie only has one job to do: deliver an action movie that lives up to the questionable, but not completely crazy pairing of aging ‘80s action star Dolph Lundgren and Muay Thai badass Tony Jaa, mounting his own comeback after his public breakdown during the production of Ong Bak 2. That the film has a trite story, a perfunctory script and performances that range from terrible to serviceable is effectively a given. But does the movie deliver where it counts?

The answer sadly, is no. The film’s biggest problem is its star, 57-year-old Dolph Lundgren. Lundgren was never in danger of winning any Oscars, so his wooden line delivery and singular facial expression are forgivable. But the film makes no winking Schwarzenegger-esque acknowledgement that Lundgren is getting on in years so the scenes of him clearly out of breath while fighting and running come off as vaguely sad. After half of his face is burned at the end of the first act, he resembles an Aryan Frankenstein, lumbering from scene to scene looking for something to punch.

That Lundgren is paired with Jaa, nearly twenty years his junior and capable of delivering twice the violence at half the size, does him no favors. The film gives Jaa two centerpiece fights; one against Lundgren which, despite some choppy editing and TV grade lighting, manages to showcase the contrast in their fighting styles, and another against Michael Jai White, here playing Lundgren’s best friend turned pursuer. White’s relegation to bargain bin B-films like Skin Trade will go down as one of the sadder what-ifs in action film history. A commanding presence and a gifted comedian, White holds his own against Jaa and then some, resulting in what is by far the film’s best sequence. Why he is not the lead of this film is a question, let alone a Statham-caliber star is a question that deserves an answer.

For the rest of the film, 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. Even the presence of the always welcome Ron Perlman as lead bad guy Viktor Dragovic–seriously, how many cinematic Eastern European gangsters do you think have been named Viktor Dragovic? A dozen? More?–is wasted on a film that Luc Besson wouldn’t touch with Liam Neeson.

Author rating: 1.5/10

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