(aka 'The Girls Next Door' or 'Trade - Willkommen in Amerika' or 'Welcome to America')

Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner
Germany / USA 2007


"Trade" plays pretty rough, which is as it should be. If it didn't, it could easily become just a suspense story that offers a thrill of horror rather than a nasty bit of business with just enough familiar trappings to pull the audience along. As it is, it's kind of on the line, probably a nice place for this movie to be: It gets the audience angry but doesn't quite send them running for the exits.

We start in Mexico City, where Jorge (Cesar Ramos) has given his sister Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) a bicycle for her 13th birthday. Jorge has not earned the money for this gift honestly, by any means, but his crimes are nothing compared to the Russian gangsters who snatch her off the street. She's thrown in a room with Veronica (Alicja Bachleda-Curus), a Polish girl who chose the wrong people to help her find work in America. Jorge is able to track his sister to Juarez, near the Texas border, and it's there that he meets up with Ray Sheridan (Kevin Kline), a detective with his own personal reasons for tracking this ring of sex traffickers.

Kevin Kline is the first person billed, but he doesn't actually appear until about a half hour into the movie; that belongs to Cesar Ramos, Paulina Gaitan, and Alicja Bachleda-Curus. We get a sense of just what easy pickings the kidnappers' targets can be, and what kind of corruption anyone fighting them has to deal with, in multiple senses of the word. Sometimes a scene will seem a little less smothered by the smog-filled skies of Mexico City, especially if it involves Adriana, pre-kidnapping, but once things go bad, it's relentless.


Director Marco Kreuzpaintner keeps things moving, and manages to get tension out of such unexciting things as an online auction. He's got a knack for finding creepy moments, both expected and not. He's a little hamstrung by Jose Rivera's script, which has one or two too many convenient coincidences - Cesar happens to see the kidnappers, he and Ray are at the same place at the same time, etc. It's probably not more than most films, but lucky breaks feel out of place in this story.

 Excerpt from Jay Seaver's review at eCritic located HERE


Theatrical Release: January 23rd, 2007 - Sundance Film Festival

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DVD Review: Lionsgate - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Lionsgate - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:59:32 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.33 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1) , English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: Lionsgate

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by director and producer
• Featurette: Chasing Shadows: Uncovering the Truth
• Featurette: Paper to Print
• 16 deleted scenes
• Lionsgate ads

DVD Release Date: January 29th, 200
Keep Case
Chapters: 20



The Lionsgate transfer does not appear crystal-clear but this is partly due to the manner in which it was shot - with a gritty, Indie edge and feel. There are lots of hand-held modulations and hence plenty of hazy shots in the film. The dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic DVD represents these moments with accuracy but I still think the image is somewhat less sharp than one might expect from a modern film. Even close-ups are not that detailed. Contrast seems good and colors a little dull (this again may be intentional).  Overall the image is expectantly free of dirt and has no untoward digital manipulation. In my opinion, it looks as good as it ever will on SD DVD.

Audio offers two flavors - a moderately utilized 5.1 track with sparring separation and a 2.0 channel. Both seemed fine to me - reporting the dialogue softly, but well enough to determine what is being conveyed. There is a lot of (Mexican) Spanish in the film (and some Russian?) and it is expressed with mandatory English subtitles. There are optional English or Spanish subtitles as well thereby covering all the dialogue.

Extras include a director/producer commentary. Kreuzpaintner discusses trying to represent the two countries (Mexico and the USA) using different cinematographic techniques - ditto for his usage of the handheld for conversations in Mexico. It is good with a few gaps.  There are two featurettes - Chasing Shadows: Uncovering the Truth is 20 minutes and has input from director, screenwriter, cast and crew about the desire of the film and expressing its message of awareness. Paper to Print is 8 minutes and talks about bringing the story to the screen - the hurdles and how to identify and express the concepts with maximum effectiveness on film. There are a whopping 16 deleted scenes (20 minutes worth) shown 4:3 letterboxed - those who enjoyed the film may find interest in viewing them.

The film (big sigh): ... aside perhaps from straight pedophilia, there is no more disturbing a topic as the 'trade' of human beings as slaves - generally for sexual gratification. Even though this film NEVER delves overly deeply into the more crude aspects - partly because it doesn't want to titillate individuals who are bent enough to find it appealing - it still gives you repulsive shivers of whom we are sharing this planet with. I think Kreuzpaintner does an excellent job of transmitting that awareness without succumbing to cinema's easy route of exploitation. This film is relatively gentle but hits home with undeniable force. Is it a perfect film? - far from it . I've always loved Kevin Kline and he is a good strong-silent type but here his character is quite unemotional and 'stayed' - perhaps a little more than necessary. Is this an easy film to make? - not properly and it gives as good as it gets right down the line. It may strike some a quite 'Hollywood' ( a sell-out from 'The Motorcycle Diaries') but although I found it differently impacting than Lilja 4ever, it, regardless, touched me a great deal. I think it is very much worth seeing. I won't be forgetting it very soon.      

Gary W. Tooze



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Distribution Lionsgate - Region 1 - NTSC


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