Countries: Canada, Thailand
Languages: English, Thai
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Dolph Lundgren is back in a new action flick, and this time he brought his friends from past collaborations – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Michael Jai White. Joining him is Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, and the reason we can talk about Skin Trade in the first place – Tony Jaa.
We love martial arts, and we love action. But our love of Skin Trade will be dependent on if we don’t mind watching tired and recycled tropes from either genre.
Enter Nick Cassidy (Lundgren), a renegade cop bent on revenge for the killing of his family by Serbian mobster Viktor Dragovic (Perlman), who was also out for revenge of the murder of his family by Cassidy. As our hero searches for our villain with the stereotypical fake accent, he uncovers a ring of human trafficking, in which foreigners smuggle damsels in distress to the highest bidder.
We also meet Tony Vitayakul (Jaa), who much like many of Jackie Chan’s characters, shares the same first name as the actor who plays him. Maybe it was to appeal to an international audience by making it easier to remember his name? Anyway, Tony is a Thai cop out to deliver justice to skin traders.
The two cross paths in an odd couple pairing nostalgic of Lundgren and the Brandon Lee in Showdown in Little Tokyo – a white dude and an Asian guy who is of the shares ethnicities with the bad guys they are playing fists-to-face with.
Tony and Cassidy work together less efficiently than your head and hand, of which the latter will probably be resting the former by its chin as you ponder why you have made the decision to spend the 95 minutes to finish this film.
You hand might also be supporting your forehead as you try to decipher what Tony Jaa is trying to say when he speaks English. As much distasteful as it is to crack on a non-English speaker for giving their all to speak one of the stupidest languages ever created, it was pretty difficult to discern many of his words. Not being his native language, Jaa’s English speaking resulted in half-hearted delivery of dialog.
The action scenes, however, make up for the dialog. That is, if you have never seen a Tony Jaa film. Both Michael Jai White and Dolph Lundgren pulled off amazing effort sparring against the living Thai legend. But, longtime fans of Jaa will instantly recognize all of the choreography that was pulled out of his old flicks, leaving many thinking why they are not watching Ong Bak instead.
But hey, Dolph Lundgren is an avid campaigner against human trafficking, so that means his message about how evil the skin trade is will be conveyed, right?
Well, it becomes more of just another backdrop; another reason why the good guy’s revenge is holier than the bad guy’s. Just like how everyone forgets about Liam Neeson’s daughter’s friend in the first Taken film, we forget about the reason this film’s title.
There were many things that were entertaining though, lighting a fire to ignite the audience’s laughter. Like how Cassidy’s wife seems to be 30 years younger than him. Or that Tony Jaa thinks he’s in a Bollywood action flick because he is able to chase down a motorcycle on foot. Or that Cassidy treats his seemingly university-aged daughter as if she were six when he tucks her into bed.
As many hits Dolph Lundgren has in the action genre of cinema, nothing new comes out of Skin Trade. The film seems to be stuck in the 80’s with all its recycled tropes and tired choreography.
Will it do its part in helping Tony Jaa gain exposure to an international audience? Not really, but it’s okay, because Furious 7 has done a better job with that. One last word of advice – don’t you dare be tricked into giving sympathy points to the story when it does its half-assed reveal towards the end.
Watch this film…
…if you really, really, really need to watch everything in Tony Jaa’s filmography.