Movie Review: ‘Trading Paint’

Review by James Lindorf

Trading Paint is the second feature-length film for Director Karzan Kader (Bekas) and was written by first time writer Craig R. Welch and Greg Gerani (Pumpkinhead). Trading Paint explores the world of dirt track racing and stars John Travolta, Toby Sebastian, Shania Twain, Michael Madsen, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, and Kevin Dunn. Lionsgate will bring Trading Paint to theaters on March 22nd, 2019, it will also be available On Demand the same day.

Dwindling funds put an end to the winning streak of legendary father and son racing duo Sam (Travolta) and Cam (Sebastian) leading the pair to a falling out over the future of the team. A rival racing giant (Madsen) takes advantage of this rift and offers Cam a lucrative opportunity racing for his team. When Cam accepts, and the gap between father and son grows even more substantial. With Cam gone Sam has no choice but to get back behind the wheel and race against his rival and his son for the highest stakes of his career. Bad blood off the track leads to dangerous situations on it as Sam races to win a sixth championship and to prove a point to his son.

Baring the mistake of going for a southern accent Trading Paint is the best work Travolta as put out in years. He looks to be in better shape physically and seems to be putting in more effort than he has for some of his recent straight to DVD action thrillers. Shania Twain is here for some reason. She doesn’t have a single song in the film, so it’s unclear if she was doing a friend a favor or if this is the start of her trying to put acting first. She gives a decent performance, not standing out in either a positive or negative way. Giving Travolta a run for best performance is character actor Kevin Dunn (Transformers) as Sam’s best friend Stumpy. Dunn has been an “oh it’s that guy” for the last 30 years.

Trading Paint is a sports movie in the way Jerry Maguire is a sports movie. The sport, while essential, takes a back seat to another type of story. In Jerry Maguire it was a romcom set in the world of a sports agent, and in Trading Paint, it is a father and son relationship story centered around short track dirt racing in Talladega Alabama. This results in the drama being put first and the action on the track being used to expound upon the broken relationship.

While several races do take place in the film, they are de-emphasized for two reasons. First, on the track drama is not the story that the writers and director are interested in telling. Secondly, the budget wouldn’t allow it. While the exact budget is unknown it was low enough that all the action takes place on one track, there is limited in-car footage, and each race only lasts a couple of minutes while featuring a lot of very similar if not identical footage. The filming, editing and budgetary constraints all leave the film lacking the adrenaline that one comes to expect from a racing movie.

A weaker story was buoyed by the performances of the actors, especially Travolta and Dunn, but that lack of excitement was the final nail in the tire of a film that doesn’t have quite enough momentum left to get over the finish line. I do think Trading Paint is a success for Kader and Travolta. While it may not have been the overall success everyone was hoping for, it could help boost a young career while rejuvenating an old one. Hopefully, Kader’s next project will leave the action behind altogether, and the passion Travolta brought to this project will be present in his future roles.

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