We are all aware of the economic crisis of late and ‘Traders’, written and directed by Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy, explores an extreme reaction to this, through two former white-collared bankers facing financial ruin following unemployment. Harry Fox (Killian Scott) was once a lucrative businessman, and has the swanky apartment and attitude that match his previous lifestyle. When he and his co-workers find themselves out of work, Vernon Stynes (John Bradley) thinks he has a solution, presenting the idea of ‘trading’. Trading is when two consenting individuals enter into an agreement whereby their assets are converted to cold hard cash and they fight to the death to either double up or die. The preposterous Fight Club meets The Hunger Games plot is tackled with a very dark sense of humour and unnervingly realistic violence.
There is a stark contrast between the visual realism and the far-fetched scenarios that play out through the narrative and because of this, the film never makes for comfortable viewing. The strange tone is heightened by slightly shaky camera work that cleverly keeps the audience on edge and when Harry first commits to his first trade, there is a profound moment where the enormity of his situation hits home, and from then on the character transforms.
Scott’s performance from this vital turning point onwards reminds me of Paddy Considine in Dead Man’s Shoes, as he struts around in a green parka with a cold, emotionless demeanour, building his balance at the expense of others, literally and figuratively. Bradley is also effective in his cowardly turn as the increasingly ruthless Vernon Stynes, who could quite possibly be the most whiny and irritating cinema character of the year. The acting around them though feels a little ham-fisted, as does the odd love triangle that is wedged into the story with no real purpose.
Moriarty and Murphy take an absurd concept and executes with an alarming impact, and mixes genres with confidence and ambition, albeit creating some tonal inconsistencies. Extremities aside, it evokes thought of the human need for money and desperation to succeed which can drastically go wrong and turn to greed. This example is of course sensationalised representation of the dog-eat-dog world we live in, but it certainly makes its point to illustrate how far people will go. Traders is daring and at times utterly ridiculous, but is a film you can’t ignore.