Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, Dolph Lundgren, Peter Weller and Ron Perlman...all in one movie. How do you react? With excitement, right? OK, you’re not too sold. That’s fine. But then you see pictures from a fight scene between Michael Jai White and Tony Jaa. How do you react then? “HELL YEAH I NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE,” and that was me. I’d been posting pictures and talking about this movie from the second it got announced. With every post, I kept saying how I couldn’t wait to see this movie. The hype was so real, and I regret nothing. NOTHING.
Skin Trade is about Detective Nick Cassidy (Dolph Lundgren) and his hunt for revenge against Serbian mob boss, and head of an international prostitution ring, Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). After the bust of a stateside prostitution ring belonging to Dragovic that cost the life of Dragovic’s son, Cassidy’s family is killed and he’s left for dead in retaliation. Having survived, Cassidy heads to Bangkok on a manhunt for Dragovic. It’s not easy because he’s being hunted by the FBI led by their top agent, Agent Reed (Michael Jai White), and Thai detective Tony Vitayukul (Tony Jaa), who has a shared interest in bringing down Viktor Draovic but is also after Cassidy because of his connection to his partner’s murder.
Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren’s characters are irrational as shit in this movie. I get Dolph’s reasons, don’t get me wrong. If my family was murdered, and I knew who did it, I’d hunt the bastard down too. However, going into that man’s restaurant and blowing it up with people in it is MASS MURDER. Tony, I get you hate the skin trade but at the end of the day you’re still a cop and you can’t just go full Batman with your interrogations and then right after you get what information you need just drop the guy fifty-eleven stories high off of a balcony! Cop or not, that’s still murder. They hit that full vigilante mode (I honestly think Dolph Lundgren was making up for that old Punisher movie, and MAN DID HE) and nobody checked them for it. How they got away with all that is beyond me but I rock with it. Never trust Michael Jai White if he’s in a suit and tie with glasses. He just looks so shady, like he’s about to bring you in on a scheme that if it backfires you’re the one getting hemmed up, or he’ll just set you up for the obvious okey doke that in the end you’ll say to yourself “I should’ve seen this coming.” Ludacris had a line that goes “You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife, hoes don’t act right”...well Tony Jaa clearly can so that statement is null and void.
This movie lived up to the hype I built up for myself. Dolph Lundgren wrote a pretty good movie that wasn’t groundbreaking but it definitely wasn’t bad either. Also, it touches on the subject of forced sex work without coming off extremely preachy nor does it excessively beat you over the head about what women forced into prostitution go through. Action-wise, it definitely delivers from the gunfights to the hand-to-hand combat. Tony Jaa really loves his shotgun by the way. He’s not that great with a handgun but MAN is he surgical with the shotgun. The fight scenes hit hard. Both Dolph Lundgren vs Tony Jaa (which is leagues better than the fight he had with Jet Li in The Expendables) and Michael Jai White vs Tony Jaa are bad ass. For a while, I watched those 2 fights alone on a regular basis. Tony Jaa’s English is pretty good and I hope he gets more English-speaking roles. Michael Jai White is so damn shady but it’s so good, and every time he starts putting hands and feet on someone all I can say is “this man is jacked as hell but, doesn’t move like it at all.” Dolph Lundgren gets his Frank Castle on and didn’t hesitate on who he was putting a bullet into. He also displays just how legit his Kyokushin Karate skills really are and was also giving Tony Jaa the business in their fight. Ron Perlman, even as a Serbian mob boss is vicious and can run an organization rather smoothly. But then again, in another life, he ran an MC smoothly until his son took over and ran it into the ground (Sons of Anarchy)...but I digress.
I also want to say that this is the comeback that Tony Jaa needed. After The Protector, it just seemed like his movies were on a decline. While his appearance in Furious 7 was pretty good, this was the movie that really hit and made me look forward to SPL II. I mean, he’s fighting the Jacky Wu Jing. That’s going to be dope.
I’m giving this a 4 out of 5. It isn’t perfect and there are moments that make you tilt your head, but the replay value is high. Like I said earlier, it lives up to the hype I set for myself. Check this movie out and watch pure badassery.