Film review: Skin Trade - intense Tony Jaa/Dolph Lundgren action scenes save it from cliché
Old-school hand-to-hand combat will delight martial arts fans, and makes up for substandard plot
This retread of every 1980s American action film you’ve ever seen is more enjoyable than it should be. Featuring Dolph Lundgren, the Swedish action hero famous for B-grade actioners like 1989’s The Punisher, and Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa, it contains every possible action movie cliché. But the intense scenes in this Thai production make up for the substandard storyline.
Eschewing fast editing and special effects, director Ekachai Uekrongtham and his choreography team simply film Lungdren and Jaa doing their stuff. Aside from the voluminous gunplay scenes, there’s plenty of old-school hand-to-hand combat, something which should delight fans of the genre.
Lundgren stars as Nick Cassidy, a New Jersey cop fighting his way through Thailand in search of the Russian gangster (Ron Perlman) who killed his family. As he frees cageloads of girls captured by the Russian to be sold as sex slaves, Nick accidentally falls foul of crusading Thai cop Tony (Tony Jaa). The pair seem set for a fight to the death, but things change when they realise they have a common enemy.
It’s nostalgic fun to watch genuine martial arts experts fighting each other on the screen – these guys don’t need to hide behind special effects. Watching Jaa’s soft Muay Thai style clashing with Lundgren’s harder, karate-inspired technique is quite thrilling: when Jaa gets too fancy with his footwork, Lundgren just picks him up and throws him.
Although Skin Trade is unlikely to win any awards from the United Nations, the filmmakers do touch slightly on real-life human trafficking crimes in the end credits.
Skin Trade opens on October 15