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Review: Human trafficking drama ‘Skin in the Game’ is marred by sensationalism

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Erica Ash in the movie “Skin in the Game.”
(Kandoo Releasing)

Though “Skin in the Game” is earnest in its attempts to shed light on human trafficking, the good intentions are buried under a thick layer of grime from its trashy script. The thriller condemns this form of exploitation, but it’s often sensationalist in its depiction of the crime.

When 15-year-old Dani (Sammi Hanratty) is kidnapped off a quiet suburban street by a madam’s henchman, her mother, Sharon (Elisabeth Harnois), turns to an old friend for help after the police offer little aid. Lena (Erica Ash) is a former sex worker herself who devotes her energy to rescuing young women from a similar fate, and she uses both her knowledge and her own experience to save Dani from the clutches of Eve (Angélica Celaya).

Director Adisa, who gets a story credit as well, makes his feature debut here, but his style sometimes detracts from the film’s substance. Unnecessary split screens, twitchy flashbacks and poorly timed cuts are distracting, but they can’t fully pull our attention away from Steven Palmer Peterson’s convoluted script.

Even while it wants to be sympathetic — and wants us to be as well — “Skin in the Game” doesn’t think much of its characters. There’s little development as it puts them through hell, focusing more on the issue than on the people experiencing it.

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‘Skin in the Game’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, AMC Universal Citywalk 19; also on VOD

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