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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review - Movie - Traders

I don't typically like overt violence in movies, and most British small-scale movies have that weird greying effect that makes them look more depressing than they are. But there are a few British movies of that type I've watched and enjoyed. The most recent - and most unexpected - is the Irish-produced Traders. Currently available on BBC3 via iPlayer, Traders is what might be described as an action thriller with a surprisingly dark twist.

The premise is simple; a man named Henry Fox dissatisfied with his low-paying work becomes embroiled in a game created by Vernon, a man he meets by chance. The game is called Trading, and it soon takes in a viral quality. The rules are simple; sell possessions to create a money stake, fight to the death, survivor collects both stakes and arranges it so the victims are presumed suicides with methods difficult to trace and confirm. His first "Trade" nets him 10,000, but the thought of more pulls him into more and more trades, which become increasingly dangerous and violent.

The theme of the movie is the time-worn question of how far someone is prepared to go for riches, but it can also act as a commentary on the modern world and how the internet is allowing the creation of these types of "entertainments". It's one person creating the Trading game, and that one person is causing dozens of deaths. The theme is disturbing to say the least, more so because of a distinct lack of blood and guts. This is where the subdued tone works in the movie's favour; the emphasis on middle to lower-class suburban neighborhoods drives home a feeling of desperation, the fact that those trading probably have problems in their lives that need this money. The ambiguous ending drives the overall message home.

On the whole, the movie looks good. You can tell the budget was low, but the tone and subject matter actually help rather than hinder. The cast, including Killian Scott as the lead and John Bradley as Vernon, does a creditable job of portraying a group playing for high stakes out of desperation or greed. It must be stressed that this movie is not for younger viewers. Quite apart from the disturbing content and subject matter, there's violence a plenty. Most of it is deceptively bloodless, and consequently more disturbing. For me, seeing someone stabbed to death is far less unpleasant than someone getting the life choked out of them. There's also the usual - but thankfully sparse - use of swearing.

On the whole, this is a great movie of its kind. A very modest scope belies a scenario many might easily compare to Stephan King's original Running Man or Battle Royale, but while not original it's still highly enjoyable in a delightfully disturbing way. Some contrived moments drag the experience down, and the ending might upset some, but on the whole this is worth a watch while it's available.


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