Many a movie is made with good intentions. Case in point: "Skin Trade", which stars, was co-written and co-produced by Dolph Lundgren. Watching it, you can tell that this is a passion project that wants to address a serious subject in the horrible business of sex trafficking. It's also an action movie, and whilst such a genre has managed to successfully tackle social issues in the past, here it doesn't work out too well-though the movie itself isn't too bad.
Dolph plays Nick Cassidy, a cop on the hunt for Serbian mobster Viktor (Ron Perlman), only to lo and behold, discover that there is a human trafficking ring under his control. After killing Viktor's son, old Vik retaliates hardcore, setting an explosive in his house that kills his wife and leaves him injured. Now Nick wants revenge, and he heads to Thailand, where he runs into a colleague (Michael Jai White) and local cop Tony (Tony Jaa) whose also been fighting the country's criminal empire for a while.
As a movie with a message, "Skin Trade" isn't too successful. It's obvious that those behind it have their hearts in the right place and want to inform the viewer about the horrors of sex trafficking. However, it's tendency to have throw in action scenes and Muay Thai fighting kind of collides with the more serious subject matter, and it feels a bit jarring. That and the fact the movie doesn't really delve too deeply into the subject. At times, it feels more like it is paying lip service than it is telling a story worthy of consideration, and the fact that it is largely a no-brainer action movie doesn't help much.
That being said, it is more successful as a no-brainer action movie than it is a drama of any sorts. The action scenes are hard hitting and to the point, not to mention bloody. That and it's a movie that knows what it's audience wants, and that's guys beating the shit out of each other and it usually delivers as a low calories, Saturday afternoon action flick. It also helps that the movie is relatively well acted, with Lundgren in particular delivering a pretty strong performance, which is not something that I was expecting. Add some strong editing (well, for the large part) and solid cinematography and you get something that isn't a waste of time. Hell, it's the kind of thing I wish guys like Anchor Bay and Grindstone Entertainment would put out. You know, something that actually tried instead of just casting slumming actors and calling it a day.
That doesn't make for a high recommendation though. The all around tone of the movie, while serious, is also scattershot, and the combination of fun but dumb action and somewhat muddled social drama can be a little confusing. Thankfully, the fun but dumb part largely wins out, and it makes for a decent time overall. Just don't go into it with high expectations.