Inspired by true events, the Lifetime Original Movie, Baby Sellers, exposes the shocking international criminal enterprise of infant trafficking. Stars Emmy winner Jennifer Finnigan and Emmy and Golden Globe winner Kirstie Alley.
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Mexican human trafficker Rafael Ochoa is mainly wanted for his coyote network, but the police never nailed him, and hopes to get at him by his sideshow which they stumbled upon, infant sale trough bogus adoption. Petty criminal Carla Huxley, whom he built up from the gutter, now runs a US agency, which leaves loose ends, so detectives apply undercover as prospective parent. The Mexican supply being disturbed, she calls on a Brazilian hospital for white babies to order and an Indian slum for 'cheaper' supply.Written by
Make this a series with Jennifer Finnigan's character as the lead!
The film was "Baby Sellers," billed as a "world premiere" Lifetime showing of a quite powerful and well-done thriller from producer Robert Halmi, Sr. (he and Halmi, Jr. are known for socially conscious TV-movies) which had some of the usual Lifetime sillinesses and improbabilities, but had enough energy and power to transcend them. The star is a young, compactly built blonde woman named Jennifer Finnigan, who plays Detective Nicole ("Nic") Morrison of the (presumably fictitious) "Homeland Security Investigations" law-enforcement agency, or HSI. When the film starts she and her male African-American partner (alas, not identified on the cast list on IMDb.com) are hot on the trail of Rafael Ochoa (Zak Santiago), a crime kingpin involved in a number of illegal enterprises, including smuggling undocumented immigrants into the U.S. in the backs of large trucks. The film actually opens in a small village in India, where kidnappers literally steal Mira, the recently born baby of a young couple, Dilip (Arjun Gupta) and Noureen (Veena Soud), who can recognize her if they see her again because she has a tear-shaped birthmark under her left eye. Then it cuts to the U.S., where Nic and her partner almost catch Ochoa's agent but the agent and Ochoa himself escape. They do, however, recover the truck in which they were smuggling in their latest batch of undocumented immigrants — pregnant women. Ochoa is shipping them into the U.S. so they'll give birth on this side of "la linea" and therefore the kids will be U.S. citizens; then the babies will be taken away from their mothers and placed with wealthy Anglo families for adoption.
At the crux of all this is an adoption agency with the typically smarmy title "Road to Love" run by Carla Huxley (Kirstie Alley) — and I can't help but think writer Suzette Couture deliberately named her after an author whose most famous work is "Brave New World," a novel about the mass production of babies. Huxley delivers a well-honed sales talk to prospective adoptive parents in which she trots out her own Third World-born adopted daughter Alyssa (Corale Knowles) and tells what a wonderful success her own adoption has been — "My mom is awesome!" Alyssa tells her mom's prospective customers, before we get a scene between the two of them in which Carla turns out to be a tough taskmaster with an obsessive concern about her daughter's diet. Directed by Nick Willing, "Baby Sellers" flits confusingly between the U.S., India and Brazil (another important stop on Carla's baby-selling network), and at times you have to look closely to determine which Third World country with dirt roads, shaky buildings, grinding poverty and nut-brown people is which (some of the switches in location are indicated by chyron titles but most aren't), but it's generally well plotted and it's powered by fascinating female characters as both heroine and villainess. It's also a movie which, despite the sometimes confusing changes in locale, manages to tell convincingly tragic plot lines and avoid the soap-opera trap of too much blatant tear-jerking.
At the end there's a title about the impact of human trafficking, including the claim that it's now the world's second largest and most lucrative criminal enterprise (after drugs but before weapons), which reminds us that the Halmis were also the producers of the Lifetime movie "Human Trafficking," which, when I reviewed it for IMDb.com, I headlined my review, "Good intentions doth not a great movie make." I wouldn't call "Baby Sellers" a great movie, either, but it's far better than "Human Trafficking;" it's not only a fast-paced, exciting thriller (we open in the middle of a chase scene instead of getting the usual 20 to 40 minutes' worth of dull exposition typical of Lifetime's thrillers) but it has two great tour de force roles for women. Kirstie Alley is absolutely brilliant, capturing not only the character's evil but the smarmy self-righteousness and gooey sentimentality with which she conceals the evil not only from the people she interacts with but from herself. And she's matched by Jennifer Finnigan, who manages to be just as tough as Mariska Hargitay in "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" without being either as self-consciously butch or as annoyingly schoolmarmish. Finnigan's combination of little-slip-of-a-girl appearance, implacable will and surprising toughness and skill with the action scenes is remarkable, eminently watchable and makes me wish the Halmis and Lifetime would get together and build a series around this remarkable actress and her character here.
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