Ambitious but ultimately flawed Irish indie thriller in which desperate men trade their lives for hard cash
Capitalist greed and abject depravity have always made symbiotic cinematic bedfellows, the two indelibly linked in such bombastic works as Fight Club, American Psycho and The Wolf of Wall Street. Irish indie Traders has similar DNA, but lacks the political or cinematic punch needed to drive its outre message home.
After being ousted from a successful Dublin-based financial corporation after it loses billions overnight, financial analyst Harry (Killian Scott) quickly feels the pinch. When ex-colleague Vernon (Game of Thrones' John Bradley) invents a new form of trading, in which two willing participants fight to the death with the winner taking the loser's life savings, Harry is initially sceptical, but soon the wolves at the door force his hand..
As a study of how our consumerist society is causing untold psychological damage, and of just how far desperate people will go given the resources and opportunity, Traders has intriguing potential. Unfortunately, its blunt approach makes its outlandish narrative even more difficult to swallow; Harry's continuous voice over, while intended to rationalise proceedings instead gives the whole thing an uneasy, laddish glibness.
It's also, given the extreme scenario at play, fairly mundane in its filmmaking. Scott and Bradley are fine but aren't fleshed out beyond good looking muscle and geeky loner and, while both buy into this bloodlust for different reasons – Harry to make his fortune, Vernon to make his mark – neither motivation is particularly compelling. Equally as slight are the parade of willing traders, ranging from smart-talking youngsters to trembling family men and an aggressive woman who Harry balks at taking on, and Nika McGuigan's Orla, who is nothing more than object of desire for Vernon and flitting love interest for Harry.
All this means that, while it may be a film of commendable high ambition, ultimately Traders is just another grim urban fairy tale about the ridiculous games of deeply unlikeable men.
Limited release from Fri 29 Jul.