Priceless, rated PG-13
This film is truly a family effort from the Australian born Smallbone family. Directed by Ben Smallbone and starring brother Joel Smallbone, who along with another brother Luke comprise the two-time Grammy winning Christian music duo For King & Country. I was familiar with the duo for their work with Lecrae on his song “Messengers” from his 2014 album Anomaly, for which they won a Grammy. Some may recall Christian singer Rebecca Saint James, who is a sister of the above mentioned brothers. Luke James and father Dave act as producers of the film. The film is written by Chris Dowling and Tyler Poelle.
The film was inspired by director Ben Smallbone’s work on a documentary that followed a former pimp who rescued people from human trafficking, and by the band For King & Country’s emphasis on respecting women. The main character is James Stevens (Joel Smallbone). At one time, life had been going well for James. He had a wife and small daughter, Emmy (Sierra Rose Smith). But then his wife dies (we aren’t given the details) and he isn’t able to hold onto a job. Eventually, he loses custody of his daughter, who goes to live with his mother.
Hoping to get custody of his daughter again, James needs work. He agrees to drive a box truck across country for cash. He doesn’t know what he is hauling and he is told not to ask questions. His only stipulation is that he won’t haul drugs. However, before reaching his destination, he finds out that he is transporting two frightened sisters Antonia (Bianca Santos) and her younger sister Maria (Amber Midthunder), who are unaware of what is awaiting them at the seedy Motel 12 in an unnamed Southwest community at the end of their journey. James builds a relationship with the girls over the rest of the trip and then is horrified at what becomes of them. He immediately decides that he has to make right what he had a hand in.
He meets the likeable Dale (David Koechner, who usually plays comedic roles), who manages a motel. Dale has a personal reason for helping James to rescue the girls. Both Dale and James are willing to risk their own lives to try to save the lives of Antonia and Maria.
Some estimates about human trafficking indicate that it is a $32 billion a year industry that enslaves more than 20 million people worldwide. Many of the victims are young girls between the ages of 12 and 14. Although a horrendous subject matter, the filmmakers are able to communicate the horrors of human trafficking without showing anything in explicit detail, and as a result raise awareness of trafficking. Still, this is not a film for children.
The film was surprisingly well made for what I assume to be a relatively low-budget movie that as filmed in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico in only 17 days. I was impressed with Joel Smallbone’s performance in the lead role. The film includes For King & Country’s song “Priceless” as the closing credits roll. Watch the lyric video for the song here.