In 1987, Gordon Gecko uttered, “greed — for lack of a better word — is good,” and American business began to swarm. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the Oliver Stone film helped Wall Street. The best and brightest began flocking to finance. Stories like Jordan Belfort’s became commonplace. Even through crashes, recessions, and pandemics, the American appetite for trading stocks has never been stronger. After Covid caused many to embrace day trading, we now see films on the topic break into the mainstream. Trader is one of many that wants to explore the finance world. However, it takes a very unique approach. We only see one actress from start to finish.
Trader revolves around an unnamed trader (Kimberly-Sue Murray) looking to make it big. When we first meet her, she scams old men for their money. Yet her ambitions are far greater, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish them. While she builds a phone relationship with a popular trader named Bob (Shaun Benson), the trader begins ignoring all morals and ethics.
Director Corey Stanton keeps the quick pace of Trader from its opening frames, and the rare moments it slows are disorienting. It’s an interesting and ultimately wise decision. While Trader clocks in at only 84 minutes, the ratatat dialogue and action pack the plot of a two-hour feature. Stanton’s penchant for dreamlike and drug-induced stasis becomes the only other moment of peace, but again, dropping these moments into a freight train makes them all the more effective.
Murray dominates the screen for the entire runtime, and she does a rather good job of keeping it entertaining. While she has no one to play off, she creates an eery persona that embraces her loner attitude. The blank expression as she lies through her teeth becomes a powerful tool in her arsenal. Murrays struggles to stand out in a crowded field of non-emotional analysts on film, but her ability to keep our focus is unusual. That’s a star-making quality that makes her job much more complex than others who take space in ensembles.
However, Trader does have issues with its screenplay. There’s a plot point before heading into the third act that does not logically track. While the issue that hurts our trader is an act of god, it seems genuinely impossible that this particular character would not have other backups available. The dialogue and pacing feel repetitive at other points, causing scenes to blur together. Perhaps most important, shows like Industry and the upcoming movie Fair Play have more to say about the trader profession. We needed more development on this aspect of the story that goes beyond “She is a sociopath.” That is made clear in our opening shot, and while the character experiences her version of success, she does not functionally grow throughout the movie.
Even so, Trader is wildly entertaining. There are enough jokes that land, and the narrative is compelling. While there are flaws that Stanton should try to correct in future screenplays, he also shows he can handle tone and pace exceptionally well. Ultimately, that and Murray’s performance make Trader fun, if imperfect, thriller.