Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ashley Judd, Anne Archer, Patrick Duffy, Elisabeth Rohm, Sean Patrick Flanery, Brian Thompson, Efren Ramirez, Jason London, Madison Wolfe, Kelly Washington, Jessica Obilom, Alpa Banker, Nikki Koss
Written by: Siddharth Kara
Directed by: Will Wallace
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content including sexual assaults, language, and some drug use
Running Time: 104
Date: 10/06/2017

Trafficked (2017)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

Slave Danger

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Tackling a serious subject but looking like a bad after-school special, this drama is terribly forced and indelicate; it tries to deliver an important message, but ends up more like a cheap thriller.

In Trafficked, American girl Sara (Kelly Washington) turns 18 and ages out of foster care, and a social worker (Ashley Judd) tricks her and sells her as a sex slave. In India, Amba (Alpha Banker) was preparing for college in America, but a jealous admirer throws acid on her, and she, too, is sold as a sex slave. Together they wind up in Texas and meet Mali (Jessica Obilum), from Nigeria, who keeps her chin up and hopes to reunite someday with her child.

The brothel is run by Simon (Sean Patrick Flanery), who promises that the woman are free to go once they have serviced "500 men," although when one woman gets close, he kills her. So Sara and her friends formulate an escape plan, but it will be dangerous and they might not all make it.

Trafficked is painfully matter-of-fact in its depiction of violence against women, but lacking the humanity to make it mean something. It all feels like part of a staged protest, and the characters are lost in the shuffle. The men in the movie come across mainly as evil, leering, monsters. While the women are asked to live out a horrifying and painful experience, but unable to do so without uncomfortable hysterics.

It's a wonder why Ashley Judd would have signed up for this, especially in a nasty, villainous role, although the same goes for any of the actors. The movie was written by Harvard Professor Siddharth Kara, author of a real-life study of sex trafficking, and while the movie probably gets its details right, it has no human angle. (Attempts at character development are laughable.)

After all, this is fiction, not a documentary; an audience needs something to grab onto, as opposed to just a lecture about how awful all this is, or some cookie-cutter "thrills." In fact, it's difficult to imagine why anyone would willingly sit down and watch a punishing movie like this.

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