In present day South East Asia, down dark alleys, in secret rooms, children are for sale. Alex Becker and his team are the last defense, leading his team on a raid of a known child trafficker only to discover the trafficker has escaped taking a seven-year-old girl and Alex's wife captive. Parallel story lines intertwine and twists unfold against the backdrop of the dangerous human trafficking world, in a story of struggle, life, hope and redemption in 'Trade of Innocents'.
After the tragic death of their daughter an American couple decide to delve deeper into the illegal sex trade in Cambodia in an attempt to stop more families from being torn apart like their own.
A straightforward, somewhat Hollywood-ized story that touches on one of those subjects that is made all the darker and more upsetting by its reality, Trade of Innocence should have been a painful but moving film in which a couple explore their lives now that they suddenly find themselves without their daughter.
Instead the film is a moral crusade against the stereotypical “other culture” that steals and defiles the pure white children of the West.
The sad fact is it that yes, sex trafficking is a real problem in many countries, but Trade of Innocence does not do justice to the real pain and darkness that lies behind the issue. The main characters, parents Alex and Claire Becker, are little more than cardboard cut-outs of pillars of morality; his job as a human trafficking investigator automatically giving him the right to act as vigilante hero whilst Claire’s position as volunteer carer at a hospice for rescued girls makes her little more than a faceless paragon of charity and kindness. Neither character has substance or any sense of individuality, nor low and behold you find yourself unable to care about them or their plight.
The poor characterisation could almost be forgiven however if there wasn’t an underlying stream of cultural stereotypes and subliminal racism running throughout the film.
As always, I attempted to stay open minded whilst watching Trade of Innocence, but it quickly became difficult to do as the lack of what I can only call “balance” in the film made me noticeably uneasy; throughout the movie’s entire runtime I didn’t spot a single Cambodian native, yet nearly all the girls being used for the sex trafficking are unsuspecting and innocent American or European kids, giving the overall impression that this abhorrent problem does not affect the native community. This, as well as other sweeping generalizations, the black and white nature of the morals and narrative of the film and the overall naivety of the piece left me feeling a little nauseous.