The sex slave trade is real. It goes on today, not only south of the border in Mexico and Latin America, seen in films like Man on Fire as lawless hellholes, but in the area where I live, in the north New Jersey neighborhoods around Newark, where in 2002 police raided a Plainfield house and found four teenaged Mexicanas, prisoners of traffickers, forced into prostitution for their captors' profit.
This incident was highlighted in a 2004 article for New York Times Magazine, "The Girls Next Door" by Peter Landesman. Although the article has become a flashpoint for controversy and its credibility called into question, "The Girls Next Door" attracted the attention of Hollywood producer Rosilyn Heller. Publicity materials note that Heller met Landesman through feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Heller's "friend and producing partner." (True: According to IMDb.com, Steinem and Heller co-produced the 1993 TV movie Better Off Dead.)
Then Heller called another "producing partner": Roland Emmerich, schlockmeister producer of The Patriot, Godzilla and Independence Day. Emmerich bought film rights to "The Girls Next Door," and recruited Mexican screenwriter Jose Rivera (Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries) and young German director Marco Kreuzpaintner ("coming-out" comedy–drama Summer Storm).
The result is somewhat schizophrenic film: part hard-hitting, socially aware procedural about the abduction and trafficking of young women and girls through Mexico into the U.S.; part heart-pumping action/buddy/road–movie about a hooligan-turned-hero who tracks his abducted sister for thousands of miles from Mexico to New Jersey with the help of a lone cop with a personal stake in the trafficking racket.
The victims are a 12-year-old Latina named Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) who is snatched from the streets of Mexico City while riding her bicycle, and Veronica (Alicja Bachleda), a young Polish woman who believes that she has a legitimate job lined up, but whose suspicions are raised when her recruiters confiscate her passport at the airport. Veronica is summarily beaten and raped by her abducters in a kind of ritual subjugation initiation. Later, in a scenario taken directly from Landesman's article, Adriana is led to a roadside field of reeds, into a sort of warren of paths and cave-like rooms, where victims are forced to perform sex acts on men shuttled in by van. However, Adriana's virginity is preserved to be auctioned off for top dollar on the Internet.
The heroes are Adriana's 17-year-old brother Jorge (Cesar Ramos), a street thug who robs gringos estúpidos with his posse by luring them into back alleys with promises of hookers and sex for sale, and Ray (Kevin Kline), an emotionally distant Texas cop haunted by a past sin and a tragic connection to the world of trafficking. Jorge's and Ray's paths cross at a Mexican stash house where Adriana and Veronica were briefly held, and Jorge stows away in Ray's trunk to get into the U.S., where an underworld contact has told him his sister will likely be auctioned off in New Jersey.