Trafficked: A Parent's Worst Nightmare

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Trafficked: A Parent's Worst Nightmare Movie Poster Image
So-so tale about timely topic has violence, drugs, alcohol.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

One scene in particular shows the power of community in standing up to criminals.

Positive Role Models

A private investigation firm behaves like urban mercenaries, working for $20k a week for a distraught family whose teen daughter has gone missing. The mother is emotionally devastated, shown drinking wine as a way to cope; the father starts walking around with a gun strapped to his hip. He too eventually turns to drinking, nearly commits suicide. The main bad guys, the men who keep teen girls locked up in basement cages before taking them to hotel rooms or homes of wealthy White men to be sex workers, are African American, and in a later scene, one is on the phone with a Latino man who is also a sex trafficker. 

Violence

A teen girl is "catfished" on the internet, meets up with the villain on the eve of her 16th birthday, is then taken prisoner and held in a basement with other teen girls. Implied rape: A man who holds her prisoner is shown undoing his belt. Teen girls are forced to work in motel rooms where men line up and pay to have sex with them; lead teen girl is sent to a bachelor party and a "date" with a wealthier older man. A man points a gun to his head (attempted suicide). Fighting with guns and assorted weaponry, resulting in death and injury. Heavily armed private investigators break down a door, fight with fists, break up a dogfighting ring (dogs shown in cages, injured). Scantily clad girls dance in front of a Confederate flag. Violence and vigilantism is the only solution given in this movie.

Sex

Teen girls who are held prisoner and used by sex traffickers are dressed in skimpy clothing and drugged with Oxycontin. Older man who is with a teen girl tells her to take off her dress "so we can have some fun." 

Language

Occasional profanity: "bitches," "bitch," "ass," "damn," "hell." Creepy sexual innuendo at times. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen girls being sex trafficked are given "candy" (Oxycontin) by their pimps; some girls are addicted. Man shown depressed, severely drunk in hotel room with whiskey bottle next to him while he talks on the phone in slurred and belligerent manner. Man gives teen girl a glass of wine. Heavily armed private investigators storm into a house where scantily clad girls dance in front of a Confederate flag, booze bottles overturned everywhere. A mother drinks wine to numb the pain of being unable to find her daughter. Talk of drinking martinis. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Trafficked: A Parent's Worst Nightmare is a 2021 drama in which a family tries to find their missing daughter, who has been kidnaped by sex traffickers. On the eve of her 16th birthday, the teen girl is "catfished" on the internet, goes on what she thinks is a date with a boy, but is then kidnapped and forced to live in a basement with other teen girls, sleeping in cages and being given "candy" (a euphemism for Oxycontin) to numb the pain. The teen girl is shown being forced to work as a sex worker -- first in a seedy motel room where guys line up outside to pay to have sex with her, and then as the "entertainment" for a bachelor party, and then on a date with a creepy wealthy older man who gives her wine and tells her to take off her dress "so we can have fun." Rape is implied when the teen girl is first abducted. Violence with guns and assorted high-powered weaponry results in characters being shot and killed or injured. A group of heavily armed private investigators kick down a door and stop a dogfighting ring (dogs are shown in cages, injured and scared). A man is shown in a hotel room with a bottle of whiskey by his side in bed, drunk and belligerent, on the phone with a gun nearby that he puts to his head. The main bad guys are African American men from inner city Detroit, and the teen who is abducted is a White girl from the suburbs, and while there is one powerful scene in which community activists are shown rescuing a teen girl who has been held by sex traffickers, violence and vigilantism is upheld as the only real solution to combat this crisis.

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What's the story?

In Trafficked: A Parent's Worst Nightmare, Allison (Sophie Bolen) is a popular teen girl who loves riding horses and lives in the Detroit suburbs. In recent days, she has been chatting online with "Tyler," a boy rumored by her friends and younger sister to be her new boyfriend. On the eve of her 16th birthday, Allison sneaks out of the house to go on a date with Tyler, who takes her to an empty parking lot, where she's then abducted by three men who take her to a basement, where she's forced to live in a cage with other teen girls. When Allison doesn't turn up at school the next day, her friends are concerned, and when she doesn't even show up for her birthday party, her parents Case and Joanna (Kristy Swanson) are deeply worried. Meanwhile, Allison is being sent to work as a sex worker for a man who goes by "Daddy," sent to a seedy motel room where men pay and line up to have sex with her. When the police say they're unable to do anything for 48 hours, Case and Joanna decide to call a friend of Case's named John Belton (Dean Cain), a former Marine who runs a high-end and heavily armed private investigation firm. Belton agrees to immediately take on the case, but his work doesn't come cheap. Desperate, Case and Joanna agree to hire Belton, with Allison's grandmother footing the bill by tapping into the college fund she had set aside for Allison. As the days and weeks go by, Allison is sent to bachelor parties and "dates" with wealthy older men, John and his ragtag crew are unable to find any leads, and Joanna and Case's marriage is in dire straits as Joanna tries to numb her pain with wine and Case now walks around with a gun strapped to his hip and has also turned to drink. After a month, it seems that all hope is lost, and as they learn of Belton's ugly past, Case and Joanna think they've been ripped off -- but one last tip suggests that maybe there's still hope to find Allison. As the clock ticks, Belton and his crew must find Allison before it's too late.

Is it any good?

This is a movie about an important topic, but unfortunately it's just a mediocre film. While the statistics presented at the end of the movie are stark and horrible -- in the United States, 700,000 to 900,000 women and girls are being sex trafficked, generating $30 billion annually -- the movie is marred by corny attempts at "teen" dialogue, an overreliance on montages filled with sad singer-songwriter balladry, and the kinds of tropes seen in any Hollywood vigilante movie dating back to the 1970s, if not the 1950s. There's one very good scene in which community activists led by a minister accomplish more in one night than the $20,000-per-week ragtag group of private investigators led by Dean Cain's character accomplish in a month, but the violence and vigilantism held up in the rest of the movie turn the saying "It takes a village ... " into "It takes a village, a pricey private investigation firm led by an ex-Marine, an arsenal of assault weaponry, and a father whose masculinity is on the line." 

There are some other problematic elements to this movie. The three main bad guys are Black men from the inner city, and the abducted teen is a White girl from the suburbs. While the man who lures the teen girl is White, and the men who pay to have sex with her are White, most of the screen time is centered on the Black men. While it's hopefully not intentional, this is a narrative rooted in racism dating back decades, if not centuries. There's literally one scene devoted to adding a third dimension to "Daddy," the meanest of the pimps who holds young Allison prisoner (spoiler alert: Daddy needs money to support his churchgoing grandmother), a scene that comes across as forced and in no way counterbalances all of Daddy's other disgusting actions. In spite of these problems, hopefully viewers will be moved to reflect on this crisis and think about potential solutions other than vigilante violence.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how sex trafficking was conveyed in the movie. What did you learn? How does the movie serve to highlight this problem?

  • Does the movie try to present ways in which we can end sex trafficking in this country, or is it more focused on telling the story of one family's traumatic experience?

  • How and why do you think violence and vigilantism were presented as the main solutions to this problem? What are some other possible solutions?

Movie details

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