Blockbuster Videos was an empire for around ten years or so. The shelves were stocked with two bays full of the biggest releases that week. In the interstitial spaces between the massive bays were a thousand straight to video films. Some were good; most were crap. But, part of the excitement of going to Blockbuster was trying to seek out that gem that no one else knew about. It could be really hard sometimes. Dark Sky Films newest release, Traders, is the kind of movie that would have taken up no space at a Blockbuster. It may have one or two slots at best, but if you were lucky enough to find it you would discover you had walked away with something pretty fun. The writing and directing debut of Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy is a film that lives and dies on its concept. John Bradley of Game of Thrones stars as the recently unemployed Vernon Styles who is forced to move back in with his mother when there are no jobs to come by. At the edge of his desperation, he comes up with an online network called “Trading.” The concept is simple enough – two people sell everything they own, empty their bank accounts and put all the money they have into green sports bags. They meet in an abandoned location, dig a hole that will ultimately become a grave, fight to the death and whoever is left standing buries the other person and walks with both bags. It is a theoretical closed loop since each participant has to write a suicide letter before they fight. There are no witnesses and there is no way to trace who the killer is. Vernon recruits his old friend from work, Harry Fox, played by Killian Scott of John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary whom we follow throughout the film. The two men couldn’t be more different. Harry is fit, lean and doesn’t talk much; Vernon is out of shape, anxious and overly talkative. Through their desperation, they are dragged into a pool of greed and murder together while Harry, unwittingly, becomes an unbeatable trader. A major flaw of the film is that it hurtles forward from trade to trade and is so loosely plotted that it never builds its construct enough to understand the true motivating factors of the twisted game. Moriarty and Murphy take what could have been a really taught and intriguing forty-five-minute short film and turn it into a shaggy, and by the end, slightly deflating feature film. There is no mistaking the films that they have taken inspiration from and The Purge is right at the top of that list. It has a similarly outlandish premise that, if you can go with it, does have some merits. The thing that ties them closest together though is the lengths that ordinary people can be driven to in times of desperation. The Purge was made for a trim three million dollars and it looks and moves like a movie ten times that budget. I can’t be certain, but I would assume that Traders is around the same budget, but it looks and feels like all the scenes in Edward Norton’s office and home in Fight Club. The film never truly has the courage of its convictions to really put our faces in the nastiness of the proceedings. It had me thinking about what dark little alley it would go into next. As a morality play it is just too sanitary and left me wanting the grime that should be painted all over this gruesome tale. As for the performances, they are scattershot. Kilian Scott is a pretty uninteresting hero to take us through the film. Acting is hard, I know, but I’ve never seen an actor more unconvincing at trying to drink a glass of orange juice on screen. John Bradley fares pretty well. His jittery Vernon is a fun villain for the film. Part of what makes that character so interesting is just how sporadic his decisions are. As an audience we are never able to stay with him, he is always a few steps ahead, not from intelligence but out of the sheer desperation of his choices. And therein lies what maybe the central problem with the film; we are following the wrong person the whole time. Harry is the main character, but Vernon is the more interesting presence. What would compel a man to start this? Is he crazy, or desperate, or both? It leaves me wishing that more films would feature the out of shape, pudgy oddball as the film’s protagonist. John Bradley doesn’t look like a leading man, but he is infinitely more interesting an actor than Killian Scott who joins the many bland, white leading men in the movies today. In the end, though, Traders turns out to be a relatively fun little thriller. It is slightly forgettable, but if I found it on the shelves of Blockbuster I would’ve felt like I won that night. And the highest praise I can give a debut film is being excited to see what the director does next, and Moriarty and Murphy have me hooked. See larger image Traders [Blu-ray] Jobs are gone. Homes are being repossessed. Suicide rates are soaring. But Vernon Stynes (John Bradley, Game of Thrones) might have the answer – Trading. Through an underground online network of similarly displaced individuals, two people agree to Trade by emptying their bank accounts, selling everything they own and putting the cash into nondescript green bags. They then travel to a remote location, dig a grave and fight to the death. Winner buries the loser and takes the two bags. Then you find someone else and do it again, and again, and again, until you are rich enough or dead, whichever comes first. Harry Fox (Killian Scott, Calvary) has lost his job, his dignity, his best friend. What else has he got to lose? Why not become a Trader? New From: $9.98 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.