The kidnapping and trafficking of young woman for the sex trade is a serious issue. Trade, alas, is just a seriously awful film. Rarely has a message movie been as noxious as director Marco Kruezpaintner's, which manages to be not only contrived and culturally offensive, but also exploitative of the illicit practice it theoretically opposes. Its right hand wholly ignorant of what its left hand is doing, the film asks us to sympathize with young Mexican Jorge (Cesar Ramos) after his thirteen-year-old sister Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is grabbed by Russians and sold into sexual slavery, even as it makes clear that Jorge is an unrepentant criminal hailing from a dangerous country defined by its legion of cretins and crooked cops. It then attempts to elicit empathetic horror at the treatment of Adriana and her fellow abductees by their captors, while simultaneously lavishing so much lurid attention on their abuse that titillation becomes the prime objective. And of course it indulges in grim postscript statistics about the extent of sex trafficking, this after having previously exhibited absolutely zero interest in realism, as evidenced by Jorge's magical knack for sticking to Adriana's lengthy trail from Mexico City to New Jersey.
After spotting the snatched Adriana on a bustling metropolitan Mexican street - a preposterously convenient development indicative of the film's laziness - Jorge eventually stumbles upon a nasty, ramshackle building where she was held. There, he surreptitiously spies American insurance fraud investigator Ray (Kevin Kline), a cowboy hat-adorned mystery man who also seems to be looking for someone in this out-of-the-way dump. In order to enter the States to rescue Adriana, Jorge stows away in the trunk of Ray's car. Apparently, border patrol doesn't check car trunks, because this goofy plan works to perfection - until, that is, Ray discovers his stowaway and...well, after a few contentious conversations characterized by Jorge calling Ray "gringo," grudgingly befriends him. Predictably, despite age and cultural differences, the two are more alike than initial impressions let on, as The Motorcycle Diaries scribe Jose Rivera's phony script (based on a 2004 New York Times article) soon reveals that Ray is gripped by an inescapable, fanatical desire to locate the young daughter who vanished into thin air years earlier.