When you've had your arm twisted to pick up a stranger from the airport, you don't expect to end up in Melbourne's seedy underworld. Ashley reluctantly offers to help an Asian woman search for her missing daughter. It emerges that the daughter maybe a victim of the sex slave trade, a world that Ashley knows little about.
Emma Lung, Veronica Sywak, Saskia Burmeister
Rating: 4 stars
THIS taut Australian thriller about the sex slave trade has generated an almost unprecedented level of hype.Initially slated for a oneoff Sydney screening, The Jammed now has a wider theatrical release on the back of rave reviews by ABC TV and a Melbourne critic.The enthusiastic critical response to the film is thoroughly deserved. Dee McLachlan's deft direction of her own well-crafted screenplay is supported by strong performances from a solid young cast.Veronica Sywak deserves special mention for the breakout role of Ashley Hudson, an ordinary woman who finds herself in an extraordinary situation.Through a thoroughly convincing group of circumstances, the newly single office worker finds herself adopted by a Chinese mother (Amanda Ma) who has come to Melbourne to lookfor her missing daughter. The search for Rubi (Sun Park), who may or may not want to be found, leads Ashley deeper and deeper into Melbourne's underworld, a place she didn't even know existed.It's a clever narrative device.Like Ashley, most Australians imagine crimes like human trafficking occur only in third world countries. Her journey is an eye-opener, rupturing the familiar fabric of our society.The film, which was inspired by newspaper articles and court transcripts, also shows how relatively simple it is to enslave sex workers by retaining their passports and keeping their money. An illegal immigrant, whose only other option is a detention centre, is hardly going to go to the police.If I have one criticism of the film, it's the casting of Emma Lung in the lead role of Crystal.The actress does a good job in terms of an accent and postural transformation, but it's still difficult to buy her as a Chinese immigrant, even after the screenplay's explanation that she has an English father. The fact that Lung is so obviously acting, with a capital "A", jars with the film's otherwise realistic tone.Saskia Burmeister, however, is completely credible as her Russian counterpart.A standout example of the can-do school of filmmaking.