Skin Trade (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 11-Jun-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 95:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ekachai Uekrongtham
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Dolph Lundgren
Tony Jaa
Ron Perlman
Peter Weller
Michael Jai White



Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $34.95 Music Jacob Groth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††††Skin Trade delivers on expectations. It does not exactly exceed them, but it does not disappoint, which is a big deal considering whatís at stake here. After all, it is a direct-to-video affair with one hell of a cast, including Expendables luminary Dolph Lundgren, Thai superstar Tony Jaa, former RoboCop Peter Weller, Hellboy star Ron Perlman, and the perpetually reliable Michael Jai White. Luckily, instead of a schlocky waste of time like Blood of Redemption or Ambushed, Skin Trade has the skill and know-how to deliver as a bruising B-movie actioner. It also functions as something of a public service announcement about the hideous human trafficking industry, with the movie giving us something to chew on as we enjoy the carnage, violence, and explosions.

††† Seeking to take down sinister Siberian human trafficker Viktor Dragovic (Perlman), New York Cop Nick Cassidy (Lundgren) kills Dragovicís beloved son in a tense shootout. After Dragovic weasels his way out of police custody, he comes after Cassidy, destroying his house and attacking his family. The assault leaves Cassidy shaken and determined to exact revenge, going outside the law in his mission for retribution. Travelling to Cambodia, Cassidy crosses paths with young Thai detective Tony Vitayakul (Jaa), but the pair are reluctant to trust one another.

††† Itís clear that Skin Trade genuinely is a case of ďIf you want something done right, do it yourself.Ē Lundgren initially penned the screenplay all the way back in 2007, and when the film finally came together, the actor maintained plenty of responsibility, serving as a producer on his pet project, though he left directorial duties to Thai filmmaker Ekachai Uekrongtham. Skin Trade unfolds pretty much as you would anticipate, fulfilling perfunctory story and character development before getting into the relentless action sequences. There are a few twists and turns throughout the narrative, but it thankfully never devolves into convoluted nonsense. At 90 minutes, this is a beautifully lean movie, and, surprisingly, the ending is not an outright happy one; itís open-ended, which both reinforces how many souls are lost due to human trafficking, and leaves room for a sequel if one is ever ordered (which would be an enticing prospect).

††† Todayís action movies are digital all over, with movies like Battle of the Damned and Blood of Redemption even stooping to the offensive level of digital muzzle flashes (no blank rounds are fired anymore), and with CGI blood rearing its ugly head in most every recent action movie. Thankfully, Skin Trade is more old-school; performers are visibly shooting blanks, and bullet hits are practical. Itís such a small thing, but itís rarely done correctly, hence the effort is very much appreciated. Moreover, while there may be digital touch-ups here and there, nothing looks phoney or outright CGI. Hell, thereís even a helicopter crash during the finale which looks like the result of practical effects! Most of the explosions and flames look real, too. Skin Trade is very much an í80s movie in spirit, though its tone is perhaps more dour than most productions from that era. While the dialogue doesnít sparkle as brightly as something like Lethal Weapon, there are a few nice one-liners peppered throughout.

††† The action as a whole in Skin Trade is satisfying, with shootouts, chases, and some hand-to-hand fights, all of which were pulled off with sufficient panache by director Uekrongtham. We can actually see whatís happening, and the body count is pretty considerable. Unlike the PG-13 family-friendly flicks we see so often, Skin Trade is a hard R, almost effortlessly so, pulling no punches in its depiction of graphic violence or the bleak realities of the human trafficking industry. There are even a few gory deaths that left this reviewer giddy with joy. Furthermore, production values are strong considering the productionís reported $9 million budget, with slick visuals courtesy of cinematographer Ben Nott (Predestination, Daybreakers). Skin Trade is a theatrical quality actioner, and it certainly deserves a wide cinema release more than some guff that has polluted multiplexes recently.

††† Tony Jaa was grossly misused for his English-language debut in Furious 7, lost amid a congested ensemble cast where he was unable to do much. But Jaaís second billing here is appropriate, as he is indeed allotted a major role in the proceedings. His acting is admittedly a bit stilted and lacking in confidence like most Asian performers making their English debut, but he compensates for these shortcomings with his insane fighting skills. The Ong-bak sequels and The Protector 2 were unforgivable, with the latter actually featuring some piss-poor fights, but the throwdowns in Skin Trade are awesome. A brawl with Lundgren is admittedly a bit over-edited, but itís brutal and viscerally exciting nevertheless. But the jewel in the movieís crown is Jaaís one-on-one with Michael Jai White - both men are proficient real-life fighters, and their battle is incredible, with smooth camerawork properly showcasing the respective abilities of the two men. Itís certainly better than anything from last yearís The Expendables 3.

††† Dolph often puts more effort into his performances if he directs the picture as well. Although he only produced Skin Trade, the project was very close to his heart, resulting in a very focused performance here that ranks among his best in the last couple of decades. Itís a suitable role for the Dolphster, and he runs with it. His pain is very evident when he loses his family, and he seems visibly affected as he looks upon the women and children locked up in cages (Dolph has said that, to get into character, he thought about how he would feel if his young daughters were in there). Dolph interacts well with Jaa, and the rest of the actors submit solid contributions across the board. Perlman is a borderline cartoon, but in a good way, and heís a terrific villain. Rounding out the cast are Weller and White, who are a bit underused but nevertheless hit their marks confidently.

††† With a bigger budget and an extra hand in the scripting department, Skin Trade could have been a profound action-thriller akin to Blood Diamond. As Dolph himself admits, though, the finished product is vehemently a violent action fiesta, albeit one with a bit more on its mind than your typical B-movie. It fulfils its modest ambitions, and does so without the usual pitfalls associated with modern DTV productions. Itís clichťd and silly, and some moments are a tad awkward, but on the whole itís a wholesome, entertaining action movie, and thatís exactly what I wanted.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††††As with most DTV actioners in this day and age, Skin Trade was lensed digitally, and the results are excellent considering the budget.

††† Having seen the movie projected theatrically at the Gold Coast Film Festival earlier this year, I can say that this Blu-ray faithfully replicates the experience. Placed on a single-layer BD-25, the movie takes up a sufficient 23GB of space.

††† The image is often strong and crisp, displaying terrific sharpness and detail. However, without a natural grain structure and with minimal noise, some shots do look a bit smooth and waxy, but itís not too bothersome unless youíre sitting fairly close to the TV.

††† Cinematographer Ben Nott bathes a lot of the movie in darkness, and thankfully the encode capably handles the black levels and the colour palette.

††† I did not detect any video anomalies..


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††††Skin Trade is given a perfectly acceptable 5.1 DTS-HD master track. It sounded excellent on my 5.1 surround sound set-up. The explosions and gunshots are loud, and dialogue is clear.

† The score is also fairly good.

† Being a DTV cheapie, itís not going to earn any awards for sound design, but for what it is, itís pretty impressive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††††Absolutely nothing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† ††The American release of Skin Trade is not due until August. It has only been released on Blu-ray in Australia and Germany, though no word on whether or not the German release has any extras. No word on extras for the American Blu-ray either. Buy local.

Summary

††††Fans of Dolph or Jaa, or any action fans in general, should at least give this one a rent. If youíre a fan and want to buy it, wait for it to hit the bargain bins. Video and audio presentations are strong, but no extras. Not even a fluffy EPK or a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, July 25, 2015
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