A pack of papparazzi was stationed on the Walk of Fame and one by one, our guests for the evening started to arrive. Ron Perlman. Tony Jaa. Director Ekachai Uekrongtham. Celina Jade. Dolph Lundgren. They were joined by the likes of Chuck Zito, Victor Ortiz and Chin Han. An invitation to one Jean-Claude Van Damme was extended but I was told he was too busy with his own impending premiere the next evening. Earlier in the day it was said that Jason Statham planned on attending and we were hoping Michael Jai-White and Peter Weller would swing by if they were in town. It looked like Statham was a no show while Mr. White had just hopped on a plane to London and Mr. Weller must have been predisposed. Apparently Mr. Statham had already snuck into the theater and lo and behold when I went to the waiting area to do the night's introduction, there he was. After a quick hello and shake of hands, where I forgot to invite him to do a movie night, we waited as the cast filed in from outside.
Then it was showtime and after a quick introduction and mic handoff to Dolph, the co-producer, writer and star of the film talked about the origins of the film coming from real world events, having met Tony Jaa a couple of years ago on a Thai comedy, getting the cast, securing financing and then enlisting director Uekrongtham. Dolph got a little more serious in talking about the horrors of real world human trafficking where mostly young women are drugged, beat and raped then put to work. While it seemed like a third world problem, Dolph cited an example of it in nearby Brentwood where a woman was brought to the country and put to work as a nanny. After slipping a note to a fellow nanny and praying for help, a week later a dozen FBI agents arrived and pulled her out. Thanks to C.A.S.T., the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, the young woman was put into a shelter, found new work and eventually married and had a child. That young lady was also in attendance. A special auction to attend the premiere, meet the cast and work out with Dolph netted a whopping $40,000.00 bid the last time I checked. Attending co-stars Jaa, Jade and Perlman joined Dolph up front and then it was movie time.
Skin Trade is the tale of two cops, New Jersey based Nick Cassidy (Lundgren) and Thailand's Tony (Jaa). They're both working cases involving human trafficking and after Cassidy kills the son of drug dealer and trafficker Viktor (Ron Perlman), the Russian boss' remaining sons send a rocket into Nick's suburban house window, killing his wife and daughter. With nothing to lose and vengeance on his mind, Nick shows up in Thailand and tracks Viktor down with extreme interrogation methods including shotgun blasts, mangled joints, front kicks and letter openers to the throat. The two cops face off before realizing they're on the same side and they head into a gunfire and explosion filled confrontation with Viktor and his thugs. The script by Lundgren, Gabriel Dowrick and Steven Elder is pretty straightforward but the attention paid to trafficking is rightly sad and unsettling. Uekrongtham lingers a little long on the bad stuff to set up the world but the picture is extremely crisp, the locale used to great effect and action pretty Damme good.
The cast is filled with familiar faces from the action genre as Peter Weller (Robocop) and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (Mortal Kombat) have a few scenes with Lundgren, Jaa, White and Perlman. The ending sets up a sequel so hopefully Skin Trade has been killing it on VOD and will find more success on Blu-Ray. Overall a solid flick elevated by the cast and a handful of stand out action and fight sequences. Following the flick we hopped over to Sadie's across the street for the after party for a few small bites, thank yous and hand shakes before calling it a night. Great times but gotta do it all again tonight, only this time I won't be directing traffic, I'll be part of it.
Many thanks to Magnolia, Magnet, The Egyptian Theatre, Dolph and Craig's teams and everyone who attended. We'll see you on the next one.