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Reviews for March 20th, 2013


Directed by Megan Griffith

      Hyun Jae (Jamie Chung), a Korean-American teenager, gets into a bar in New Mexico by using a fake ID. Little does she know that a charming young man who claims to be a firefighter is actually a kidnapper. Soon enough, she's drugged and awoken at a storage facility in the middle of the desert with other young women, some underage, who serve as sex slaves. Bob Gault (Beau Bridges), the head honcho of the sex trade ring, just so happens to be a federal marshal concurrently. Hyun Jae, eventually nicknamed Eden, learns that the only way that she can escape being a sex slave is to become one of the employees. She tells her one of her captors, Vaughan (Matt O'Leary), that she learned how to count money at her family's grocery store and that his superiors have been short-changing him with his earnings, so he secretly lets Eden become his personal book-keeper.

      Director/co-writer Megan Griffith bravely tackles the timely, under-reported issue of human trafficking in Eden, based on a true story. Taken treaded similar ground, but Eden puts more of a human face on the issue and maintains focus on the struggles of one of the victims of human trafficking, and how she uses her intelligence to escape captivity. Griffith does show the grittiness of the sex trade industry, but wisely doesn't include an nudity thereby leaving that to your own imagination, a much more powerful tool. Eden also offers some complexity and even moral ambiguity as Eden becomes an unofficial employee of the ring and must face moral dilemmas along the road, i.e. whether or not to save the life of a pregnant victim whom she had befriended when she was a sex slave earlier. There's nothing cartoonish or over-the-top about Vaughn or Bob Gault. Vaughn, a crackhead, every now and then shows his softer side to Eden, which suggests that he does have a conscience and a heart somewhere deep inside him---he's just learned to ignore it for the time being. The last thirty minutes of the film, which won't be spoiled here, will leave you at the edge of your seat, with a satisfying payoff that's well-earned and logical in hindsight, unlike the silly ending in The Call.

      The heart and soul of Eden, though, lies in the well-nuanced, tough-yet-fragile performance by Jamie Chung. This might be the best performance she has given in her entire career, and shows that she has just the right acting chops to handle a meaty role. The same can be said for Matt O'Leary as well. Kudos to the two casting agents, Emily Schweber and Heidi Walker, for making the right choices.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Phase 4 Films.
Opens at Film Forum.

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