The movie “Taken” may be the most prominent example of Hollywood taking sex trafficking seriously.
The 2008 film let Liam Neeson embrace his late-career action chops, something the veteran actor insists he’s ready to hang up … again. The emphasis remained on his “particular set of skills,” though, not the film’s horrifying truths.
Sex trafficking is real, impacting thousands upon thousands of young women and men across the globe.
Yet it’s mostly indie filmmakers who share tales of sexual exploitation. Think titles like “The Chosen Ones,” “Skin in the Game” and “Eastern Promises.”
Now, a faith-kissed film explores the subject in the most direct fashion possible.
“Trafficked: Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare” stars Dean Cain as a private investigator who reunites teens with their families. It’s a low-budget affair, no doubt, from the modest production values to the lack of Hollywood sizzle.
While the film’s rough edges are many, it’s a comprehensive look at an issue that doesn’t get enough full-scale attention. It helps that Cain is squarely in his element, anchoring the film’s heroics without losing sight of the bigger picture.
This story is loosely based on real abductions and many of the fictional elements reflect stone cold truths.
Young Allison Riley (Sophie Bolen) sneaks away from her home on the eve of her 16th birthday, eager to meet a beau she connected with online. Her parents — Joanna (Kristy Swanson) and Case (Mark Boyd) — initially figure it’s a case of Allison acting like a typical teen. The longer her absence grows, the more they fear something sinister happened to their child.
The local police offer little help, convincing Case to ask a sketchy friend for guidance. That leads the family to a private investigator, John Belton (Cain), who gets results but brings baggage to the case.
Can John and his team (arguably the most colorful part of the film) find Allison in time?
“Trafficked” isn’t rated, but the drama unfolds in a decidedly PG fashion. That means much of the horror associated with human trafficking happens off screen. No R-rated language, nudity or overt violence plays out. That’s an issue for a film tackling such a harrowing subject.
Director Joel Paul Reisig does his best to convey what Allison and other captured girls endure. They cower in literal cages, accept “candy” from their captors to numb their senses and submit to the whims of perverted, exploitative men.
Faith plays a small but intriguing role in the production. One of John’s core team members is a woman of faith, and a third act sequence finds a black pastor standing up for the innocents caught in this deadly game. Other Christian movie tropes are gently set aside.
The partially crowdfunded “Trafficked” checks in at well under $1 million, and it shows mainly in the supporting players. Their uneven performances rob the story of some emotional heft, but veterans like Cain and Swanson keep restoring the narrative’s punch.
The soundtrack choices can be oft-putting, blending Nickelback-style weepies into moments begging for subdued orchestral flourishes.
What “Trafficked” nails without question is the complexity of these disappearances. What can parents do when the police, either overwhelmed with cases or lacking the street connections to crack the case, offer little help? How much should a parent spend to hire private squads to get their children back?
And how ethical is the approach of John and his well-meaning troupe in the first place? The latter element is teased but demands further scrutiny.
“Trafficked” judiciously shows the nuances stemming from a single abduction. Swanson and Boyd capture an otherwise healthy marriage rocked by a missing child. The arguments between the two hit realistic notes, although they’d register deeper if the screenplay obscured John’s full intentions.
Those expecting a slick, studio effort will be frustrated by elements within “Trafficked.” The drama still packs a punch thanks to the film’s real world implications and a narrative with its heart squarely in the right place.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.