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Starring Kevin Kline, Cesar Ramos, Alicja Bachleda-Curus and Paulina Gaitan; Zack Ward
Screenplay by Jose Rivera
Based on The New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Girls Next Door” by Peter Landesman
Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner

IN SHORT: On just about every level we can think of: film, screenplay, directing, acting etc. Trade is at least the second best (hard-core "serious") of the year. But... [Rated R for disturbing sexual material involving minors, violence including a rape, language and some drug content. 113 minutes]

Despite the trade name, Cranky does not exist solely to diss everything that makes it to the big screen and, for the record, we have no problem sitting through emotionally heavy films that offer little respite too late to matter. Trade walks a very fine line towards falling into the latter.

Then again, a "good film involves the viewer emotionally," which is about the only usable bit of wisdom we took out of film school. Trade offers up an extremely well written story (though so emotionally wrenching we blanked on small portions), perfectly cast and performed and absolutely emotionally wrenching despite at least one happy ending. There are several stories running through this film. We're not going to tell you which work out and which don't, if any. You're just warned that Trade is a difficult sit, one which has earned a (temporary, for now) place on our Top Ten list for the year. Cranky wrote "second-best" in the summary because, as really well done as Marco Kreuzpaintner's Trade is, we can't see anyone saying anything other than "I saw this incredible movie. Don't see it." Even the hard core "I'll only patronize art-house-only release" snobs won't make it past the first views -- this opinion is based on the usual reaction of all of 'em who always send email explaining 'why we're always wrong and how dumb we are.'

For her tenth birthday, working class kidlet Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is given a bicycle by her barely older working-at-a-trade-mom-disapproves-of brother Jorge (Cesar Ramos). Told by her mother not to go riding on it, Adriana waits 'til mom is asleep and disobeys. Two or so blocks from home, the youngster is kidnapped. Jorge, finding the bike in the street and instantly knowing what has happened -- mom didn't disapprove for her health, after all -- sets out to track and rescue his sister somewhere in New Jersey (the one place in the states that all the kidnapped kids are said to be taken. Yeah, it didn't make sense to Cranky, either. Go with it.) His quest, by means explained in the film and forgotten by yours Cranky, leads to a team up with an American cop (Kevin Kline), who is searching for his own lost daughter. That gets Jorge across the border, somewhat illegally even as the thin blue line proves to be a wee bit flexible, and on the road to New Jersey.

His sister, though, is locked in the back of the truck with other abductees: Veronica ((Alicja Bachleda-Curus) a Polish tourist who was told that the cheapest way to get to LA was through Mexico and a young boy who ... you don't want to read it here. And you sure don't want us to spill what happens when all comes together in New Jersey.

But you're going to want to see it. And the situation is such that you will be dreading the possible consequences even as the characters involved (told you, we're not telling) devise a means of escape that is, unfortunately, destined to fail.

We could be tossing a big lie into that last paragraph of temptation. We're not. There is redemption but not the close-the-book, happy ending style that usually stretches believability.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Trade, he would have paid . . .


Again, Trade is so heavy (as opposed to heavy handed) that no one who hears half a whit about it is going to want to pay to see it, in any form. That's how unpleasant the story topic, let alone the story is. That being written all we've put down in black and white is absolutely true. IF you have a day to recover and want to see textbook perfect film making, this is it.

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