Documentaries can be the victims of bad timing, and that’s to some extent the case with Floored, which chronicles the plight of veteran Chicago futures traders as they struggle to adapt to new, fast-paced computer technologies. Smith has had the interesting idea to examine a sliver of the financial sector that’s struggling with obsolescence (as opposed to whining about slightly less oversized bonuses), and the interviewees range from fat cats to burnouts. But of course floor trading is essentially gambling for a living, and every other industry on earth is in crisis too. At times this myopic, incomplete-feeling portrait—which ends in September 2008—plays like special pleading.
“It’s not fun unless you can die,” recalls former trader Mike Walsh, remembering the time he was rhino hunting in Africa. That sort of bluster makes many of these subjects less than sympathetic, but the movie takes pains to counteract perceived audience antipathy: It notes that several of the traders don’t even have college backgrounds, and it repeatedly emphasizes the integrity of Chicago’s “pit,” ostensibly the last exchange floor on earth where traders are man enough to shove and spit at each other. Like much of the economy itself, those shows of pride were illusory.