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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Skin Trade (Blu-ray)
Skin Trade (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // August 25, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 23, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
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The Movie:

Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, the same man who directed Beautiful Boxer, 2014's Skin Trade begins with a scene in which a young Thai woman is duped into a human trafficking ring's sinister clutches. This sets up the bad guys, a group of Serbian thugs led by Viktor (Ron Perlman). Trying to bust up this ring is a Thai cop named Tony (Tony Jaa), but he always seems to be one step behind them. However, on American soil… New Jersey to be specific, a cop named Nick Cassidy, with help from commanding officer Costello (Peter Weller) and fellow officer of the law Reed (Michael Jai White), things are different. They bust open a container that was supposed to have a fresh batch of young ladies in it only to find them all dead. A fire fight breaks out and Viktor's son is killed in the crossfire.

After that, it seems like things are back to normal until the next night Cassidy's house is attacked by a group of armed thugs. The place burns down and they figure he's dead but he survives. His wife and daughter, however, appear to be dead. Once Nick gets out of the hospital, he hops the next flight he can to Cambodia where he intends to wage a one man war on Viktor and his cronies, but Reed figures he's completely snapped and so he heads there after him. When Reed makes contact with Tony and fills him in on what happened, Tony figures he'd better help Reed stop Nick before it all goes south but soon enough alliances shift and truths are revealed. Before you know it, Nick and Tony have joined forces to end Viktor's slave-trading ring once and for all, but it won't be easy because they're outnumbered and seriously outgunned.

Skin Trade doesn't reinvent the action movie rule book but it sure does what it does well enough. This is a seriously fast paced film shot with plenty of style but not so much that it overshadows the story or the set pieces. It'll come as a surprise to no one that those set pieces are the highlights of the movie, but the fight and stunt choreography on display in the picture is top notch. There are a couple of spots where stunt doubles are obvious and some CGI sticks out but for the most part this is top notch high-octane stuff. The main draw here is the fact that we get to see Tony Jaa go up against Dolph Lundgren and while it isn't quite as ‘David and Goliath' as the scene where Bruce Lee went up against Kareem Abdul Jabar in Game Of Death it does work on the same level. Lundgren looks massive compared to Jaa, while Jaa moves so fast that despite the difference in their physical size, they seem pretty evenly matched. No slouch in the movies department either, we get a great brawl with Michael Jai White too, letting him strut his stuff on an equally impressive scale. Through into the mix plenty of bloody shoot outs, a few great chase scenes and a lot of impressive stunt work throughout the movie and yeah, this is ninety-five minutes of action movie bliss.

As far as the performances go, Lundgren isn't really stretching here but he plays the big, ballsy tough guy well. The story doesn't ask much of him outside of looking tough and angry but tough and angry are his strong points so in that regard the movie definitely plays to his strengths. It's also refreshing to see him with a bit of grey in his hair and playing a character that would appear to be his own age. It makes his work in the movie more believable. Opposite Lundgren, Jaa is… okay. He's here for his martial arts skills and not his acting ability and while it makes sense from a storytelling perspective to have him speak his lines in English, his delivery is less than perfect. And that's fine, because English is obviously not his native tongue, but there are a couple of emotional scenes between him and his girlfriend in the movie that fall a bit flat for that reason. Throw in supporting efforts from an effective but underused Peter Weller, a bombastic turn from White and then Ron Perlman as the main villain and this turns out to be a lot of fun for fans of medium-tier action fare.

Nicely shot, set to an effective if not super original score and delivering plenty of action (and a little completely gratuitous T&A For good measure), Skin Trade is a pretty terrific ‘good guys vs. bad guys' tale of action, revenge and intrigue. It's not deep, but it sure is fun.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Skin Trade arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in its proper 2.39.1 widescreen aspect ratio and it looks excellent. Shot digitally there are obviously no problems with print damage or blemishes while detail and texture are strong throughout the movie. Some scenes do look a bit hot but that would appear to be intentional, because outside of those scenes color reproduction seems spot on. There are no obvious compression artifacts nor is there any edge enhancement and while eagle-eyed viewers might spot a tiny bit of shimmer and maybe a couple of instances of minor banding, this is otherwise a very strong picture.

Sound:

The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this disc is great stuff. It's aggressive when it needs to be but it handles the quieter moments just as well as the shoot outs and fight scenes. Dialogue stays clean, clear and concise while the effects and the score are nicely positioned within all channels to provide for some pretty great channel separation. Bass response is strong but not overpowering and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

Extras:

Lundgren fans will be happy to see that unlike Blu-ray releases of a lot of his movies, Skin Trade sees him all over the extras starting with the audio commentary. It's a scene specific talk, so it starts off by discussing how slave traders will and do lure young women into prostitution by tricking them into thinking that they're taking modeling jobs in the western world. He then tells some stories about working with Tony Jaa, how he met him for the first time working on an unrelated project and how he tailored the script to make it work for the two of them. He discusses his work not only in front of the camera but also about writing the movie and serving as a producer on the film, approving the casting decisions and working alongside director Ekachai Uekrongtham. He notes that his interest in the picture stemmed from the fact that it's a movie that deals with a real issue, he talks about what Uekrongtham was able to bring to the movie as a Thai director, he discusses some of the fight scenes and the stunt sequences, working with Perlman, Weller, White and Jaa and how he almost got his head cut off by a wire during the chase scene where Jaa chases Dolph along the riverside. There are a few spots where Dolph gets a little quiet but for the most part this is a solid track. He was involved in a lot of different aspects of this particular movie and as such, he's able to do more than just talk about his role as an actor.

From there we move on to the featurettes starting with The Making Of Skin Trade, which is a seventeen minute long piece that is made up of interviews with Lundgren, the producers, Ekachai Uekrongtham, Perlman, Weller and White. It's a good mix of interviews and behind the scenes footage as we get to hear about everyone's experiences working on the film and see some of the more intense action scenes being filmed. Behind The Action: Fighting You Can Believe is an eight minute featurette that, as you could probably guess, covers the fight choreography and what went into making it as realistic as possible. Tony Jaa speaks a bit here as do most of the other interviewees from the first featurettes and there are some interesting anecdotes here about trying to ensure that what we see happen on camera stays within the realm of possibility. Lundgren gets a separate interview here that runs three and a half minutes. It covers a lot of the some ground as the commentary but it's still worth checking out. He gives a quick rundown of the plot and then talks about how it led to him taking an interest in the problem of human trafficking and how it became quite an emotional experience for him. This led to him working alongside an organization that exists in order to help people who were harmed by human trafficking. A Look At Director Ekachai Uekrongtham spends five minutes with the producers and the cast speaking about how much they appreciate what Ekachai Uekrongtham was able to bring to the project and his skills as a director.

Aside from that we get just under eight minutes of deleted/extended scenes, trailers for a few other action movies available from Magnolia Pictures, animated menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray disc fits inside a standard case which in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover.

Final Thoughts:

Skin Trade isn't the ‘be all, end all' of action films but hot damn if it isn't a fast paced ninety-five minutes of rock solid entertainment. The leads all do a fine job and the action and stunt set pieces are consistently impressive. The Blu-ray release from Magnolia looks and sounds very good and it contains a pretty nice collection of extras too. If you're an action movie fan or dig Lundgren or Jaa's respective abilities, consider this one highly recommended. It's a whole lot of fun.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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