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China Dolls (2007)

China Dolls


Don Barnhart Jr. starred in, wrote, directed and edited the independent film China Dolls (which is a movie that looks into the underground world of human trafficking) as the feature-length debut film from Chucklehut Entertainment.  It has been a tough film for me to review because it's difficult to figure out what type of film it's supposed to be and therefore, it's been tough to know what Mr. Barnhart was trying to achieve.  If it's an exploitation film, there isn't anywhere near enough nudity or violence.  However, I suspect that it's probably supposed to be a movie-of-the-week type of film that takes a hard look at the horrors of human trafficking.  If that's the case, then why is there a relatively long, unnecessary sex scene complete with soft-core porn music and why is one of the heroes an unsympathetic womanizer?  Either way, China Dolls is an interesting film.

The story is about two women, Jerri and Marie, who saw an opportunity to escape from their life of forced prostitution and took it.  It is also the story of a good guy named Willie (played by Don Barnhart Jr.) who is just trying to find love.  Through a series of random events, Willie meets Jerri (played by his real life partner and wife, Linda Vu) and together they try to escape the hold of her former keeper.  

In terms of story, China Dolls is relatively entertaining and does a fair job of keeping up the pace throughout the film.  Most of the acting is ok, but Don Barnhart Jr. really stands out as one of the better actors in the movie.  It actually surprised me to read that he was also the writer and director because usually when a writer / director casts himself in an independent film, he isn't one of the better actors.  That certainly wasn't the case here.  Barnhart really did a good job of acting and, for a first time film, the directing, filming and editing were actually pretty good too.

I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone looking for an exploitation movie simply because it lacks much T&A or violence.  However, I do commend Barnhart on his first feature effort and I'm curious to see what else he has in store for us.

Gore-o-meter rating: 1 out of 5 (One slit throat with lots of blood)

Skin-o-meter: 1 out of 5 (One mild topless sex scene)