We live in an evil world, and we tell ourselves it’s not just enough to sit back and let bad thing go unavenged. We have to do something about it. In Tim Williams’ Marked For Trade, young Stella (Lauren Johnson) is fed up with a system that seems unable to help the hundreds of thousands of women and children that go missing every year.
With the help of Police Chief Taylor (Stephen Phillips), Stella is assigned to assist Detective Lewis (Michael Hagerman). The long-time veteran Lewis is a little set in his methods and process of investigation, and Stella’s just a little too over eager to catch the bad guy. Her enthusiasm just rubs the detective the wrong way and becomes the first major obstacle in this partnership. Lewis is investigating the murder of Tori Summers (Minne Dosh), who had been missing up to this point. While Detective Lewis feels he has examined the evidence thoroughly, Stella demands more time to exhaust every option.
“Tori wants to experience the glitz and glamor of New York, and Joseph appears to be the one to fulfill her dreams…”
Marked for Trade tells two parallel stories. The first is what happened to Tori Summers and her relationship with a man named Joseph (Joel Owens). Tori wants to experience the glitz and glamor of New York, and Joseph appears to be the one to fulfill her dreams. In reality, though, he needs to traffic girls for his boss Red (Kris Joseph) and Tori is that girl.
The second story is of Stella herself, who is hiding a secret. This secret though is one she’s hiding from herself. Nightly, she is haunted by a dream, and she discusses this dream with her psychiatrist Dr. Ross (Gus van Soestbergen). This dream involves Stella’s sister Mia (Kendall Shaw), who disappeared when she and Stella were young children. Stella carries the burden of Mia disappearance every day and every hour, but refuses to face the truth and therefore the dreams.
Tim Williams’ Marked For Trade is a low-budget indie-film in every sense of the term. As much as we’d like to dismiss a film because of its cheap production standards, Film Threat celebrates it. This concept bears repeating. Don’t let money be the excuse for not making a movie. Yes, the production is on the cheap side. Yes, the acting is stiff and scripted. The lighting, the music, the make-up, and special effects are cheap, but Williams made his film and told his story.
“Don’t let money be the excuse for not making a movie.”
That said, Marked For Trade does fall short in the one aspect that has nothing to do with the budget, and it’s the story/script. Williams presents a story about human trafficking in our local community. It’s a sinister tale of how Joseph was able to lure Tori into his motel room trap. At the same time comes the story of a woman in turmoil carrying the burden of her missing sister. The problem is the film ends with the presentation, which in the end is simply informative. In other words, you find out what happened to Tori and Stella and that’s it.
Marked For Trade fails to bring resolution to either story, whether it’s a happy ending or a tragic one. The two stories just end and the credit roll. It feels unfinished and like any good song, there has to be an ending or a way to release the tension.
Marked For Trade (2019) Written and directed by Tim Williams. Starring Lauren Johnson, Michael Hagerman, Stephen Phillips, Minne Dosh, Joel Owens.
4 out of 10 stars