Photography: Cinedigm
Photography: Cinedigm

The country music star plays a dastardly character in his latest western.

Country music star Trace Adkins is by no means the star of Traded — indeed, he’s barely around for a quarter of the movie — but he makes every minute count, and steals every scene that isn’t bolted to the floor, during his limited screen time in the gritty new western opening June 10 in digital and limited theatrical release.

Michael Pare plays the hero of the piece, Clay Travis, a gunfighter-turned-homesteader whose teen-age daughter, Lily (Brittany Williams), runs away from home after a traumatizing family tragedy. Travis duly follows her trail, and winds up in Wichita, where his worst fears are realized: Lily has been dragooned into white slavery, and sold to the highest bidder by Ty Stover (Adkins), a bordello owner who runs his establishment with a whim of iron.

Traded is the latest in a string of westerns — including Wyatt Earp’s Revenge, a 2014 remake of The Virginian (in which he played the title role) and the forthcoming Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story — that have given Adkins a chance to cowboy up on camera. And while music remains his primary profession — his latest single, “Jesus and Jones,” currently is available on iTunes — the Grammy-nominated Grand Ole Opry inductee enjoys getting back in the saddle now and then as part of his part-time acting career.

“It just seems to be that's in my wheelhouse,” Adkins said during a recent telephone chat with Cowboys & Indians. “Quite frankly, I think they just put me in these movies because I know how to ride.”

Ironically, Adkins spends most of time behind a desk, rather than on a horse, in Traded. But he makes an indelible impact as a slow-talking, quick-shooting tough guy who demands polite behavior from his clientele — as he tells a brutal rowdy just before blasting him, “We don’t abide ill manners in this establishment!” — and must be coaxed with enhanced interrogation techniques before he tells Travis anything about his missing daughter.

“Yeah, he’s a bad guy,” Adkins noted with a rumbling chuckle. “Just incorrigible.” Playing such a character, he added, “is just a muscle I get to flex, and I enjoy it. I don’t get to do this when I’m singing.”

Another noted singer-actor, Kris Kristofferson, appears in Traded as a grizzled bartender and straight shooter who comes to the aid of Travis during the climactic shootout. Unfortunately, Adkins said, “I had no scenes with Kris in this movie. The weird thing is, I took the movie because I wanted to work with him. But I’m glad I did it anyway.”

What’s the biggest satisfaction Adkins gets from his movie work?

“The only satisfaction I get from it is when the director pats you on the back and says, ‘Good scene.’ That's about it.”

It’s probably safe to assume Trace Adkins got an especially hearty backslap after completing this tense scene with Michael Pare.