After the company they work for loses €14 billion overnight, Harry (Killian Scott) and Vernon (John Bradley) find themselves unemployed and desperate. Vernon, however, has a plan. Named ‘Trading’ the plan involves two consenting adults cashing in all their belongings then engaging in a winner take all fight to the death. “If you ever find yourself in a fight to the death”, says Harry “take my advice, go for the throat” and although Harry becomes all too good at Trading, he soon has people gearing up to take him down.
Irish audiences will be all too familiar with the fallout of the economic crash, and the austerity that befell the country when the Celtic Tiger took its last shaky breath in 2007, but Traders – despite the slightly misleading title – is not a film in the vein of The Big Short, 99 Homes or Margin Call. Instead, Traders has more in common with Shallow Grave.
Killian Scott leads the cast here as Harry Fox. Although Fox’s descent into violent madness for cash and survival is rather swift, Scott always keeps the audience on his side, just as any good anti-hero should. John Bradley makes Vernon a whining coward but, like the best cinematic snivelling toads, he has a cruel and devious plan in mind. The rest of the cast features Peter O’Meara, Barry Keoghan, Kelly Byrne, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouere and David McSavage.
Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s screenplay uses the much-maligned Irish recession as a jumping off point, but it is not long before Traders turns into a classic thriller, that relies a little too heavily on the classic thriller structure; man turn back on his friend and moves to crime, friend seeks revenge, love interest is motivation. Not that there is anything wrong with this formula, but it turns a great idea into a standard film. As well as this, the characters’ descent into the world of fight to the death club is rather sudden; a gradual change and a struggle with morality could have made for a more satisfying film overall.
As directors, Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy keep the film moving with lickety speed, although the faster the film movies, the less remarkable it becomes, falling into the structure of any thriller you care to mention. That said, the small, underworld scale and feel to the film does give it a thrilling sense, but since Harry spends much of his time alone, the film feels isolated and isolating at times.
In all, Traders is a superb idea for a film, and using the recession as a jumping off point, rather than the be all and end all of the film, is inspired. Sadly, although the performances are good, and the film well thought out, it cannot help following the plot pattern of any decent thriller, and so lacks the depth that would turn Traders from a good film into a great one.