With “Trade Off,” producer-director Andrew Lane is shooting for sultry but relies on an abundance of cheap thrills in this would-be thriller. Sex scenes border on soft-porn and there’s plenty of gratuitous cussing. Too much else is missing, chiefly an original story or a fresh twist.
Thomas Hughes (Adam Baldwin) is a young executive with financial and marital problems. An encounter with Jackie Daniels (Theresa Russell) in a hotel bar leads to a steamy affair. Apparently she’s a battered wife, and they agree to swap murders during sexual climax.
Thomas’ wife (Megan Gallagher) then dies in an auto accident (though no body is discovered) and Jackie looks to Thomas to carry out his end of the bargain. Turns out she’s married to Thomas’ back-stabbing office rival, who does end up dead.
Barry Primus plays the Columbo-like detective investigating both deaths, and there’s some insurance money to serve as motivation. Subplot involving Thomas’ next door neighbor, an amateur magician, adds to the overall sense of lameness.
The performances are in the same robotic mode as Lane’s direction. Russell’s done the wicked woman better before, and Baldwin doesn’t make a strong impression as a dim character who gets what he deserves.
Tech work fails to lift the material. The repetitive score by David McHugh tries to contribute to the tone yet only annoys.
Predictable script by Paul Koval and Edmund Fitzgerald features the summary declaration: “Everything is a trade-off, you know.” Viewers who stick with “Trade Off” will be those comfortable trading suspense and intrigue for a little prurience.