HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:72
There are very few things that disgust me more than human trafficking. People like to claim that slavery is dead in modern days, but it really isn’t. We no longer have people working fields, or walking around a Spanish poppy field with chains around their necks. Instead we have girls and boys alike slipped away from their parents through hook or by crook and tossed out onto the street to make money for their masters by using their bodies. In fact, if you look at the recent statistics, there are MORE “slaves” in the world than there ever has been before, and easier and cheaper than ever. They’ve just taken a new form. I’ve worked with several nonprofit organizations over the years that deal with human trafficking (both in and out of the United States) and you’d be shocked at some of the things they people go through. The terror, the abuse, the constant derision in order to manipulate a desired response. And strangely most people stay oblivious to the truly insidious nature of the crime, while we live our normal lives.
Ironically I didn’t look at the trailer before I started my viewing of “Priceless” and just had barely skimmed over the back case, so I wasn’t aware that the film was about human trafficking. Not to mention that its very obviously done with a religious slant as well (which is not surprising considering the church has made a big effort to make the public aware about the issue of human trafficking over the last 15 years). The story starts off with James Steven (Joel Smallbone) accepting a no questions asked job of transporting a cargo truck across state lines. James has been through a rough patch in his life, just having lost custody of his daughter after her mother passed, and is looking for anything to make a quick buck. The job is easy enough, but when he peaks into the back of the truck and sees a couple of illegal Mexican immigrants he has a change of heart. Taking them to a better life turns out to be the exact opposite, as the people that he hands the two girls over to are NOT coyotes. Instead they’re very obviously pimps and the girls are going to be in for quite a shock.
Realizing the mistake that he’s made, James decides to make it right and get Antonia (Bianca Santos) and her sister Maria (Amber Midthunder) back, no matter what the cost. Teaming up with local motel owner Dale (David Koechner), a man who has a deep seeded hatred for the sex slave industry, James starts hunting down the men whom he unwittingly turned those two girls over to in order to right the wrong. Only thing is, it’s not going to be as easy as he thought it would be. Antonia is easy enough to get to, but she won’t leave without her sister and time is running out before James and Dale are found out and the girls vanish forever.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91226[/img]I have mixed feelings about “Priceless”. On one hand I really admire the heart these guys put into the film. It was very obviously, a passion project for someone and the intensity and desire to elevate the esteem for women and to villainize the human trafficking trade is palpable and sweet. You get to care for the two women, but sadly the movie just lacks a good narrative or character development. What you see is really what you get here. James is a flat, fairly one dimensional character (even after his change of heart) and Dale is about as flat and emotionless as you can get. You can tell that David Koechner phoned this one in big time. It felt more like a documentary, or dramatization, where at the end of the picture you’d have someone come on screen and tell you how many people are suffering in the world and how you can help for only pennies a day, instead of an actual working film.
There were parts that did go well, especially the scene where James breaks into the massage parlor to get Antonia, but other than that the film was just filled with over acting and REALLY bad accents (whoever thought it was a good idea to equip Jim Parrack with a chollo accent really needs to get out more). I truly admire the effort, but the road to failure is still paved with good intentions, and “Priceless” just ends up being a fairly forgettable thriller that just barely peaks the interest before sputtering into the gutter by the end.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving human trafficking, and some violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91234[/img]“Priceless” was actually shot with the Red Epic Dragon cameras, and despite the really low budget the movie looks really nice. It’s not going to bowl you over with James Cameron level cinematography or 3D special effects, but it is a very straight forward and stable looking 2.40:1 AVC encoded image. Fine detailing is usually rather consistent and nice, but I did notice that different shots would look noticeably softer than the rest and a few flecks of wonky contrast would raise its heads. Blacks are and natural, with good shadow detail and very few scenes where any dark level artifacting would rear its head. Skin tones are fairly natural and color grading appears to be neutral with only a few moments where you could see a slight gold or teal push.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91242[/img]The 5.1 mix for “Priceless” is a bit on the front heavy side, but it is a technically sound track that does everything asked of it without complaining. Dialog is cleanly replicated in the center channel, while the majority of the rest of the track is contained within the mains. There’s a few moments where the track bleeds into the surrounds, but they are mainly used for supplemental sounds such as a car passing along the freeway or the buzzing of bugs in the country background. LFE is fairly mild, but does pad up the bottom end a little bit and offers some weight to the sappy score. It’s not a rock star level track, but technically there is very little to complain about.
• Exclusive Performance by for KING & COUNTRY
• The Making of Priceless
• The Heart Behind the Film
• The Official Trailer
• We Can Start Again - Ballad Trailer
Again, I have to reiterate that “Priceless” certainly has its heart in the right place. You can feel the passion and intensity behind their convictions and I TOTALLY agree with them. The message is fantastic, but the execution is where the film starts to stumble. Maybe it could have turned out better if they had hired better script writers and had a bigger budget, but as it stands now “Priceless” is a forgettable piece of film making that just sputters and coughs over a good idea. Audio and video are solid enough on the Blu-ray and they actually put some pretty nice extras on board. Still, I’d give it a pass unless you see something in the trailer that really peaks your interest.
Starring: Joel Smallbone, Bianca A. Santos, David Koechner
Directed by: Ben Smallbone
Written by: Chris Dowling, Tyler Poelle
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Buy Priceless On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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