Trade of Innocents

So on-message it forgets it’s a movie, Trade of Innocents has only one memorable character, though that might be inadvertent: the scuzzy John Billingsley as a featured pedophile looking for “fresh flowers” while visiting Cambodia. Unveiling and inveighing against this most scurrilous aspect of human trafficking—little girls forced into sexual slavery—Trade of Innocents shows highly suggestive, though never graphic, on-site brothel scenes, and we hear shocking testimony with “reenactments” of being kidnapped or sold off by desperately poor families: 1.2 million children every year, we’re told. Yet a Disney-like patina covers all, foretelling a plea to help (but how?) tacked on at the very end. A chirpy “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” redbird, the first of this motif, perches on the windowsill of a young girl, Amy (Thawanrat “Jasmine” Tantituvanont), being stalked by Duke (Trieu Tran, over the top here), a pimp targeted by Alex (Dermot Mulroney), an investigator determined to bust Duke’s brothel. Alex is married to Claire (Mira Sorvino), but the couple never seems conjugal despite a shared tragedy. Even their acting is wooden, with speechifying dialogue from writer-director Christopher Bessette. Not for the first time in films, noble intent is at odds with aesthetics. (Marsha McCreadie)

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