Dir. Corey Stanton (2022)
A sociopath discovers her penchant for day trading, determined to rule the world from her basement apartment.
How would you make your money if you were completely lacking in morals and had a special ability to convince people to do what you wanted them to do? In writer/director Corey Stanton's new thriller Trader, the answer is more mundane, and yet somehow so much more fucked up than you can possibly imagine. There are a few movies that you'll come across where you're jealous that you didn't come up with the idea. This is one of those movies.
Kimberly-Sue Murray is a tour de force as the Trader, an unnamed woman living in a basement apartment who makes a little bit of money scamming an old guy on the phone, just enough money to start her new job as a day trader. In true "stonks" fashion, she trades her way through an online message board like the GME COVID traders on Reddit, baiting and hooking an investor who works for a major investment firm on Wall Street. She uses her manipulation skills to full effect to make the market work in her favor, endeavoring to be at the top of the finance world.
Trader is a bottle film, taking place all in one location, which is incredibly difficult to pull off. Stanton has no difficulties at all, owing to an extraordinary sense of style and a game-changing performance by his lead (and the only character on-screen in the entire film). Murray's character is a true sociopath, one who will stop at nothing (and no one) to attain her goals. Trader is beautifully written and Murray is the perfect muse, delivering an incredibly rangy performance that hits every rung on the emotional ladder. The film feels like a stage show produced by Michael Mann, with a gorgeous color palette and a phenomenally delivered gutpunch in the finale.
It's difficult to discuss too much of the film without giving anything away. It's psychological horror to be sure, but it's also a techno-horror that shows just what an amoral person is capable of pulling off with today's technology and a refusal to abide by societal mores. Trader is a breathless portrayal of the greed and manipulation present at the highest levels of finance, and the fact that Stanton is able to convey such a complicated world from the confines of a one-room basement is incredible. This is a movie about day trading for people who don't know what that is, and it's psychological horror for people who don't really like psychological horror. It's a perfect bridge between technology, horror, and the modern world.
The only critique I can really give the film is that I wish that there was more: what caused the actions that we see on-screen? Is it really just someone's attempt to get ahead, or is there some horrific experience in Trader's past that causes her to perform her financial coup d'état? Is her story of sex trafficking-by-barcode true, or is she just, ya know, a fucking sociopath? The open-ended nature of the film creates a good bit of mystery, and one that I hope is eventually solved, because this is a character that I'd love to learn more about. I always hesitate to over-sell movies in the fear that it will seem overly generous, but I don't have any qualms about declaring Trader as one of the best movies I've seen this year. This is one that could very well wind up near the top of my Best Of 2023 list.
Who this movie is for: Indie film fanatics, Psychological horror lovers, GME apes
Bottom line: A single-character, one-room psychological horror that delivers one of the best performances of the year, Trader is phenomenal. Star Kimberly-Sue Murray gives one of the rangiest performances in recent memory and director Corey Stanton has made a practically perfect film. Don't be surprised to see this one on my Best Of list at the end of the year, and if you get a chance to check it out for yourself, I highly recommend that you do. Fantastic film. It's streaming now On Demand from all major On Demand services!