Review: Corey Stanton’s ‘Trader’

Trader Review - 2022 Corey Stanton Movie Film

Vague Visages’ Trader review contains minor spoilers. Corey Stanton’s 2022 movie features Kimberly-Sue Murray, Shaun Benson and Stephen Bogaert. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.


“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Remember those words from Al Franken’s self-help guru Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live? Two-thirds of the mantra apply to the unnamed antihero of Corey Stanton’s sophomore feature, Trader, a story about a Dostoevskian outcast who takes on Wall Street and digital baddies from her basement. The lead character — appropriately credited as Trader (Kimberly-Sue Murray) — bears too many surface-level similarities to Billions’ mathematical genius Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) for the film to truly deliver a potent message.

Trader suffers from extreme character posturing and explanatory storytelling. The script itself covers the ABCs of the “short selling” premise, via dialogue such as “luck will always be a factor” and “the game never stops,” but Stanton continuously returns to visuals of the lead writing down her master plan; an easy way to guide viewers along from scene to scene. Unfortunately, this storytelling approach seeps into Trader’s second half — a red flag that implies the writer-director either doesn’t trust the audience’s intelligence or just struggled with his core structure. As a result, there’s only so much the lead actress can do with the material. Trader relies heavily on the feeling one gets when someone recognizes their super power (see the main character’s smirk, slight head-tilt and overall posture), but there’s not much narrative substance beyond the simplistic style. There is, however, a ridiculous masturbation scene that feels faux-provocative and incredibly forced.

Trader Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Fatale’

Stanton’s visual motifs benefit key scenes throughout Trader, but the filmmaker frequently pairs seemingly big moments with lazy exposition. The best stock-themed films — whether it’s Wall Street (1987), Boiler Room (2000) or The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)  — value the flow of character information (a pre-production ingredient) and economical editing (post-production). Stanton, though, consistently returns to visuals of the Trader scrawling notes — moments that do nothing but relay obvious information to the audience. Imagine a heist film in which the focal robbers repeatedly write down the most fundamental aspects of the plan. That’s Trader.

The filmmaker’s approach, however, arguably works for the overall character sketch, as it aligns the lead with a maniacal and paranoid movie character like Maximillian Cohen from Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (1998). At what point, though, does a director just hit the gas and move the story forward? That’s the challenge, right? Midway-through Trader, Stanton introduces character details that probably should’ve been prioritized early on over all the instructional visuals. Nobody needs to see the lead circling “target” (because it’s already clear that she’s targeting someone) or “winner” (because the character’s victories are obvious), unless the film is a black comedy or social satire, like Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket (1996) or Adam McKay’s The Big Short (2015).

Trader Review: Related — Soundtracks of Television: ‘Black Mirror’

Trader Review - 2022 Corey Stanton Movie Film

The overall inconsistencies of Trader unfortunately impact the lead performance. If the audience continuously wonders “Why?” while processing second-half scenes (i.e. all the explanatory character writing), the key acting moments will naturally go overlooked. And perhaps more importantly, the best directorial execution from earlier in the film will lose value or be forgotten entirely.

Trader, which isn’t necessarily an unimaginative thriller, simply would be more entertaining if Stanton had loaded up the front end with essential character/industry details and then focused on narrative rhythm and visual design. Then, with more structural clarity, Murray would have additional opportunities to shine, simply by focusing more on her character’s backstory than stiff, cliched posturing. Furthermore, Stanton might’ve improved as his own editor and composer, which in turn would theoretically enhance his working relationship with cinematographer Carl Elster and production designer Natalie Robinson. As it stands, Trader is a bit too unpolished to earn a double-bill pairing with classic films about stock trading, even if the thriller earned early acclaim from genre-specific outlets.

Trader releases digitally on August 10, 2023 via XYZ Films.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.

Trader Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Black Mirror’