Based on a 2004 New York Times Magazine article about the sex-trafficking business and starring a very straight-faced Kevin Kline, Trade should be a gritty, multifaceted, high-minded story about the price and politics of human slavery. Instead, it's pure exploitation—the kind of movie after which you need a long, hot shower. German director Marco Kreuzpaintner's movie looks like Traffic and Syriana—clearly his role models—but is little more than our generation's version of 1979's Hardcore. It's set mostly in Mexico, where girls are snatched from streets and airports to become unwilling sex slaves—among them Veronica (Alicja Bachleda-Curus), who is lured to Mexico from Poland and is set to go up for auction in New Jersey, and Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), a teenager knocked off her bike and snatched in the broad-daylight streets of Mexico City. From Mexico to Jersey, we see plenty of pit stops at which these women (and, in one ghastly sequence, a young boy) are abused. Kline's here as a cop looking for his own grown daughter. The filmmaker has managed to take an exhaustive and troubling investigative story and render it into a tawdry little thriller. Among its myriad problems is the fact Trade doesn't say anything about sex trafficking other than "Wow, it's horrible."
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Sept. 28. Rated R. 119 minutes.