A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Trafficked is a drama/thriller about the evils of the sex-trafficking trade. It's meant to impart a serious message about a serious subject, but unfortunately, it's a grueling, indelicate movie that morphs into an insultingly cheap thriller. Expect brutal violence against women, including shoving, beating, choking, tackling, shooting, rape/sexual assault, and more. Bloody wounds, bruises, and dead bodies are shown. Though no nudity or sex acts are shown, sex is the subject of the movie, and women are not only continuously violated but also deceived and treated as objects. Language is also very strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and much more.
What's the story?
In TRAFFICKED, after American teen Sara (Kelly Washington) turns 18 and ages out of foster care, a social worker (Ashley Judd) tricks her and sells her as a sex slave. In India, Amba (Alpha Banker) is preparing for college in America, but a jealous admirer throws acid on her, and she, too, is sold as a sex slave. Together they wind up in Texas and meet Mali (Jessica Obilum), a young Nigerian woman who keeps her chin up and hopes to reunite someday with her child. The brothel is run by Simon (Sean Patrick Flanery), who promises that the women are free to go once they've serviced 500 men. But when one woman gets close to that number, he kills her. So Sara and her friends come up with an escape plan, but it will be dangerous, and they might not all make it.
Is it any good?
Tackling a serious subject but looking like a bad after-school special, this drama is terribly forced and indelicate; it tries to deliver an important message but feels more like a cheap thriller. Trafficked is painfully matter-of-fact in its depiction of violence against women, but it lacks the humanity to make their suffering mean something. It all feels like part of a staged protest, and the characters are lost in the shuffle. The men come across mainly as evil, leering monsters, while the women are hysterical, one-dimensional victims.
It's a wonder that Judd signed up for this, especially in such a nasty, villainous role -- although the same could be said for any of the actors. The movie was written by Harvard Professor Siddharth Kara, author of a real-life study on sex trafficking, and while the movie probably gets its details right, it has no human angle. (Attempts at character development are laughable.) After all, this is fiction, not a documentary. An audience needs something to grab onto, rather than just a lecture about how awful all this is or cookie-cutter "thrills." In fact, it's difficult to imagine why anyone would willingly sit down and watch a punishing movie like this.
Talk to your kids about ...
Are there any positive portrayals of sex here? Why do you think sex and violence are often paired in movies and on TV?
What did you learn from this movie? What can be done about the horrors of trafficking?
- In theaters: October 6, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: April 17, 2018
- Cast: Kelly Washington, Alpha Banker, Jessica Obilum
- Director: Will Wallace
- Studio: Epic Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content including sexual assaults, language, and some drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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