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STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 119 min.
•    Director & Producer Commentary
•    “Chasing Shadows” Featurette
•    “Paper to Print” Featurette
•    Deleted Scenes

The Pitch

Producer Roland Emmerich brings us a social drama from the writer of The Motorcycle Diaries and the director of Summer Storm.

The Humans

Kevin Kline, Cesar Ramos, Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Paulina Gaitan, Marco Pérez, Zach Ward.

The Nutshell

It’s Adriana’s (Gaitan) birthday, and her brother Jorge (Ramos) brings her a brand new bicycle.  Mom gets into an argument with Jorge about his friends and the bike, and then she forbids Adriana from riding it.  Gee, I wonder if Adriana is going to ride the bike anyway, and something bad is going to happen? 

Well, surprise, surprise, she sneaks out to go on an early morning ride, and is abducted off the street.  Jorge learns about this and follows the sex traffickers to Juarez where he meets up with insurance fraud cop Ray (Kline).  Ray has also lost someone.  He helps Jorge out of pity.  Together they make their way to New Jersey to save Adriana.

After not actually finding love on Rock of Love, Bret Michaels turned to the internet.

The Lowdown

You can’t help but feel sorry for Kevin Kline.  He’s proven himself to be a capable dramatic actor.  He just hasn’t found that breakout role that makes people stand and yell, “Holy fuck, that man can act.”  You can see him getting the script for Trade and thinking, “This is it.  The subject matter is a hot topic.  The character is a man haunted by the past.  It’s finally my time to shine.”  If only that was the case, Mr. Kline.

Trade is an uneven movie.  The first signs of this appear in the camerawork.  A documentary-style of shooting is employed throughout the film.  The shaky cam isn’t overly horrible, though during some of the calmer moments, the cameraman could have benefited from a sedative.  As the film progresses, a more classical shooting approach attaches itself to the shaky cam like a parasite.  Using bravura movements, like a 360º dolly around a character or a crane shot to introduce a location, only takes the audience out of the “reality” you’re trying to create (unless you’re a magician like Alfonso Cuarón or Emmanuel Lubezki).  Losing the illusion of reality also kills the good will the viewer has towards the handheld camera.  Why not just use a tripod the whole time?

“Uwe Boll is a goddamn genius.”

Somehow, the writing manages to be more uneven than the camerawork.  It’s possible Jose Rivera turned in a script that was pure, unadulterated awesome and the director ruined it, but that seems unlikely.  The characters are nothing more than stick figures.  When one of the main characters can be completely summed up by saying “the trafficker with a conscience is played by Mexican Karl Urban,” things aren’t looking good.  All attempts to add some flesh to those sticks fall flat.  Jorge and Ray banter back and forth about Ray’s taste in music, cats, and how anyone who lives in North, Central, or South America is an American, not just those residing in the good old United States.  They’re in a race against time to save Adriana, yet have plenty of it to spare when they stop at a diner and Jorge orders everything on the menu.  This lighthearted rapport between the characters comes up again at the end of the film, which might actually be the most ridiculous ending to a film I have ever seen.

Ray’s backstory gives him a reason to be in Juarez when Jorge arrives, but doesn’t add any depth to the character.  Ray recently found out he has a daughter who may have been sold into sex slavery.  His search for her isn’t out of desperation, but curiosity.  Curiosity isn’t enough to make you believe Ray would feel enough of a kinship with Jorge to go to all the effort to help him find Adriana.  Maybe if he had known his daughter and had been searching for her off-and-on for a few years, and it was causing a strain on his marriage, then it would make more sense.  He’d want to save Jorge from the anguish of not knowing, or whatever.  The first scenes with Ray show that Kline may have been up to the challenge of playing the anguished man with a mysterious past.  He speaks seldom and conveys a lot of his eyes and face (read: he’s Tommy Lee Jones), but before you know it, he and Jorge are all buddy-buddy and the train comes off the rails.  Kline doesn’t even get the opportunity to shit the bed himself.

“I wish I was Jennifer Connelly.  I wish I was Jennifer Connelly.”

One of these days, Kline will find that role that sends him to the stratosphere.  Or he’ll shoot up his agent’s office.  If he keeps getting roles like Trade, it’ll probably end up being the latter.

The Package

There is occasionally truth in advertising as the cover art contrasts Kline’s pensive search for his breakout role with a clichéd image of lost innocence.  Sadly(?), the producer sitting in with director Marco Kreuzpaintner isn’t Roland Emmerich.  It’s Rosilyn Heller, which is appropriate seeing how the featurettes paint the film as being her baby.  Their chat sticks mostly to the “what happened on the day” arena.  “Chasing Shadows” gathers all the main players together to discuss the production.  Things I learned from the featurette: the crew worked with love; Roland Emmerich has prestige; thinking outside of the box resulted in Kline playing a Texas cop.  It was all very fascinating.  “Paper to Print” has Peter Landesman discussing the origins of his article and how it evolved into the script, with Jose Rivera chiming in occasionally.  Seventeen deleted scenes and trailers for 3:10 to Yuma, Away From Her, Deliver Us From Evil, The U.S. Vs John Lennon, and Control Room round out the rest of the special features.

1 out of 10