The main character in Trader is unnamed, so we’ll just refer to her by the film’s title. Played by Kimberly-Sue Murray, she starts off as a phone scammer, coaxing people to give up their credit card numbers and other sensitive information by pretending to be a bank employee. Clearly, this woman is a sociopath with extreme manipulation skills. Ripping people off is fun and brings a sense of power.
She quickly graduates to day trading, reading entire books on the subject and watching an online course. Trader struggles at first, then finds her niche. She guzzles energy drinks and snorts wasabi to stay awake the long hours needed to monitor the stock market. It quickly becomes clear that tricks can be used to sway the market – spreading rumors being a major one. For someone with her dysfunctional skills, that’s a plus. The more successful her enterprise gets, the harder the drugs become. She strives to outdo Bob the Broker (Shaun Benson), the guy who taught the online course and with whom she has occasional phone sex.
Trader is a one-character story set entirely in a cramped basement apartment. Director Corey Stanton uses a lot of visual tricks in an effort to keep the pace moving and make the complexities of short-selling stocks understandable. Graphics pop up on screen, the lighting changes from green to red depending on how the Trader is doing, there are stylized shots of her writing on a dry-erase board, etc. Stanton’s technique works initially, then grows repetitive after about half an hour. It can’t disguise the fact that he’s telling a story where the protagonist is interacting with computer programs more than actual people.
Early scenes are compelling as the isolated Trader attempts to manipulate stock prices. Her developing obsessiveness is similarly engrossing. We can see the habit-forming nature of day trading, from the rush of a big score to the defeat of a significant loss. As the plot progresses, though, it becomes sillier and more contrived. Trader takes increasingly wilder approaches and commits acts that seem implausible. That builds to a climax I found tasteless. Some subjects are too heavy to be dropped casually into a movie, especially for the purpose of generating a cheap thrill.
The best element by far is the performance from Kimberly-Sue Murray. She conveys the madness brewing inside her character very well, making the Trader seem as intelligent as she is unhinged. It’s strong work from the actress. Trader doesn’t have enough going on to thrive, despite her turn. An excellent short film is in here somewhere. Stretched out to 84 minutes, a clever idea runs out of gas well before it’s over.
out of four
Trader is unrated, but contains strong language, drug use, and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 24 minutes.