The advertising tagline should have tipped me off: "You'll Pay for This." Heck, even the title has a slight exploitative air about it: Trade. Director Marco Kreuzpaintner's foray into the international sex-slave networks by which women and children (some of them toddlers) are pulled away from their families and sold to the highest bidder deserves some credit for alerting us to this outrageously evil enterprise. Admittedly, the New York Times got there first, with a long exposé back in 2004 that detailed how these sex rings work. (Typical route: Eastern Europe to Mexico to New Jersey, where they're auctioned off via the Internet.) But when it comes to getting the word out on what's turning into a global epidemic, my feeling is: by any means necessary.
Unfortunately, Kreuzpaintner's desire to both entertain and inform got the best of him; and Trade, which might have worked better as a documentary, sometimes seems closer to Caged Heat than to Traffic. Cesar Ramos plays Jorge, a street hustler in Mexico City whose 13-year-old sister, Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), is kidnapped by Russian thugs. Miraculously, he's able to follow behind as she's shipped off to the States, but how to get across the border? That's where Kevin Kline comes in, as an insurance-fraud investigator on a rescue mission of his own. The movie never quite recovers from the spectacle of Kline trying to play a hard-ass Texan, but it was in trouble even before that. Kreuzpaintner has turned a real-life horror story into so many thrills and chills.