Skin Trade is, in theory, an action film with a message, two cops from different sides of the world work together to take down an international human trafficking gang whilst teaching us about the horrors of human trafficking. Let's see how that works out
First off it isn’t really a set piece film, fights take place in simple ways and often in small areas but this suits Lundgren’s tank like nature and Jaa’s flashy moves quite well, allowing the focus to be on their fighting. The action side of things is perfectly average but highly enjoyable.
The message is somewhat lost. The juxtaposition between the soft, darkly lit intimate scenes between Lundgren and his wife and the sensory overload of the scenes with girls being used as sex slaves is somewhat heavy handed and there are shots showing a container filled with girls who died during the trip which is filmed in an impactful way but is not contextualised. The problem is the movie moves so swiftly and employs so many action clichés that it’s hard to contextualise the human trafficking within the action/revenge framework that the film has established for itself. This renders the human trafficking scenes far less evocative than they need to be. Also there is an uncomfortable amount of gratuitous nudity for a film trying to educate about human trafficking.
It is pleasing to see Ron Perlman and Peter Weller in the film – they never disappoint and this is no exception. Weller is the hardy police captain and Perlman the Serbian crime boss. Both are stereotypical roles but seeing the two actors fill out the archetypes is good fun.
Then there’s Tony Jaa, whilst it is impressive he learnt the English he speaks in this film in such a short time he is far from fluent and some scenes are laughably awkward because of his shaky grip on the language. It's a shame because his action moments are great but when he speaks English it becomes hard to take him seriously. That's not to say that Lundgren has a voice that could woo the Pope but at least he has a full grip on the language and, much like Schwarzenegger, makes the gruffness of his accent work in his favour.
The action is enjoyable enough if you're a fan of the genre but the film could have been much more if it managed to balance the action with a sensitive and impactful handling of the issue of human trafficking that inspired it. It's worth a watch for Lundgren, Perlman and Weller but, at the end of the day, it's just an average action film, nothing more, nothing less.