After the sumptuous meal that Irish film was in 2015, and the sugary rush that came with the Oscars, it’s back to reality as we look forward with hope to the next batch of films in 2016. With Sing Street and Mammal beginning the year with effuse praise at Sundance, it seems 2016 is shaping up well. Together with the ubiquitous ad for the next slate that played before each film at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival as a kind of amuse bouche, this week sees the first starter of that particular group (That’s enough food analogies – Ed.) with the release of Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s Traders.
Traders tells the story of high-flying financial worker Harry Fox (Killian Scott) and his attempts to get out from under mortgage and lifestyle financial issues when the company he works for goes bust. Reduced to a data entry job (The worst thing in the world, according to this film. They may be right), he is contacted by former colleague Vernon (John Bradley) with an idea for making money called trading: two people meet up with a matched amount of life savings and fight to the death. The winner keeps the money and buries the loser. Initially reluctant to get involved, Harry soon realises that his money needs outweigh his morals, and is soon sporting a green duffel bag full of cash around Dublin. Add to this a possible romance with an old friend of Vernon’s called Orla (Nika McGuigan), about which Vernon is none too happy, and the scene is set for trouble.
There are things to recommend here. The cast are excellent, with Scott proving a fine leading man, whether being vulnerable or swinging a hammer. John Bradley reprises his role from Game of Thrones but adds a suitably sleazy and whiny element to the performance. McGuigan does well with a pretty thin role that is ultimately put on the back burner. Even the smaller parts are well-played by the likes of Caoilfhionn Dunne and Barry Keoghan is an Irish actor from Summerhill in Dublin, best known for his roles in Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.. (Keoghan looks almost feral in this. Between this and Mammal, it is going to be his year). The film is quite well shot, contrasting the shininess of the financial services section of Dublin and the griminess of some of the areas chosen for the fights.
But there are also some problems. The structure of the screenplay means that the film becomes quite repetitive quite quickly. The fight scenes seem unnecessarily gratuitous and drawn out, whilst the main romance in the film seems underserved. The main problem is that the whole thing feels very derivative. Fight Club is the obvious touchstone but there are elements of Tzameti and Intacto in there, amongst others.
Traders passes the time harmlessly enough. Just don’t expect it to live long in the memory afterwards. Still, there are worse things than watching financial people getting beaten to a pulp on a rainy afternoon at the cinema.