Boiler Room

Boiler Room


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Since dropping out of college, Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) has been successfully running an illegal casino out of his house. However, as he’s keen to make money and gain his father’s (Ron Rifkin) approval, Seth takes a trainee job at brokerage firm, JT Marlin unaware that it’s a ‘chop shop’ boiler room. When he finds out that the stock he has been hard-selling doesn’t actually exist and that lives are being ruined so his chums can earn huge commissions, Seth decides something has to be done.

Who would have thought that the world of stock-broking would make for an enjoyable piece of cinema? Well back in the Eighties, directing controversy-magnet Oliver Stone obviously did as his cult-classic Wall Street propelled the subject into pop culture while making trouser braces look cool and telling us greed is good. Thirteen years on and first-time writer/director Ben Younger also embraces the topic for his rookie effort. Although not quite with the same zest for trouser apparel.

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In doing so, he fashions a movie that makes clear reference to the motion pictures that have inspired it. When it comes to the stock-brokers, they idolise and quote-from heart Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko. When it comes to making sales the team-leaders recite lingo from Glengarry Glenn Ross such as “ABC” (which stands for “Always Be Closing”). Ironically, by wearing these inspirations on its expensively-shirted sleeve, Boiler Room adds a realism (its likely that brokers would know these movies) that makes it memorable on its own terms. Hell, I’ve worked two sales jobs and ABC was mentioned by both companies.

Additionally, Younger also infuses Boiler Room with an impressive level of detail. By interviewing for a job at a boiler room (fake firm that breaks regulations and scams investors) and talking to actual employees who provided inside info, Younger renders a fascinating world filled with job-obsessed, women-hating macho guys. Bought someone a drink they don’t like? That’s deemed as an “unauthorised trade”. Been dumped by your girlfriend? Simply respond: “I disagree.” Not made fun of someone’s ethnic stereotyping in the last five minutes? You’re behind the curve.

Bringing all this up a notch are a few powerhouse performances likely to advance a career or two. Vin Diesel proves there is more to him than bulging triceps, Scott Caan brings his usual violent intensity, Nicky Katt is a perfect sneering mentor and Ron Rifkin is class as always. However, most notable is Ben Affleck’s recruiter Jim Young who channels Glengarry Glenn Ross’ Alec Baldwin (he’s clearly been watching him) and leaves an impression beyond his screen time. As the man says, he doesn’t like wasting time.

Elsewhere, though, there are a few missteps. Despite being capable, it’s questionable if the up-and-coming Giovanni Ribisi – who looks nothing like a Giovanni – has the tools to carry a movie like this as the main man. It’s not that he’s terrible, it’s just that you find yourself wondering how different casting might have elevated things. Additionally, Tom Everett Scott simply isn’t given enough time, Scream’s Jamie Kennedy is mildly-irritating as one of the other brokers and as for Nia Long as the love interest, she is so miscast that the ‘chemistry’ between her and Seth is as real as JT Marlin’s stock.

Aside from this and a slightly flat ending that some might feel cheated with, there is a lot to like about Boiler Room. Well observed, interesting and undeniably cool, you could do a lot worse than to gamble on giving it a chance. But then again, that’s the sort of thing the stock-brokers tell their clients.

Reviewed on: 27 Nov 2008
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Boiler Room packshot
Trouble brews at a brokerage firm.
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Director: Ben Younger

Writer: David Logan

Starring: Ben Affleck, Nia Long, Ron Rifkin, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan

Year: 1999

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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