"They say money can't buy happiness? Just look at the smile on my face," Jim
Young (Ben Affleck) tells his new employees in one of the best scenes of
"Boiler Room", the new film from first time writer/director, Ben Younger.
For those of you who are wondering, the film's title refers to the
underbelly of wall street. Boiler rooms are the locations of all sorts of
illegal activity, involving stock brokers ripping off naive customers for
all they're worth. The film itself may start on shaky legs, but once it gets
going, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie which does an excellent job
showing us how the lust for money can corrupt us all.
Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) is a young entrepreneur who makes his living running
an illegal casino out of his house. His father (Ron Rifkin), a respected
judge, is not at all pleased about this, particularly when he finds out that
his son has left college to pursue this "career". One day Seth's friend,
Adam (Jamie Kennedy), stops by with another man named Greg (Nicky Katt), who
turns out to be a broker for a small firm called J.T. Marlin, where he has
amassed quite a fortune. Greg and Adam soon convince Seth to give the firm a
try. Soon, Seth becomes a rising star in the company, begins dating the
receptionist, Abby (Nia Long), and even makes some semblance of peace with
his father. However, not everything is what it appears to be at J.T. Marlin.
Late night paper shreddings occur, supposedly great stock options don't
appear to exist, and the owners seem to be keeping escape plans in case the
newspapers start asking questions.
One of the things that most surprised me about this film was that Younger
managed to turn what should have been a boring subject into a film which
sometimes reminded me of the brilliance of "Wall Street". Like I said,
"Boiler Room" starts off poorly, with a somewhat boring intro, out of place
rap music, and distracting camera cuts. However, once Seth gets fully
involved with J.T. Marlin, things certainly pick up. The actual trading
scenes are very well done, and perfectly convey the frenzy of the constant
escalating situations. The scenes showing the activities of these men
outside of work are superbly constructed as well. For example, in one scene
the group hangs out at Jim Young's house, watching "Wall Street" itself
while quoting the entire film, word for word.
As for the acting, Giovanni Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan") is somewhat
miscast. While he does a good job playing a young man who is weak in the
face of his father, it's difficult to believe that he turns into a cutthroat
wall street broker. There's also something cold about his acting during the
more emotional scenes. Nia Long ("The Best Man") is fairly good as Seth's
love interest who is struggling with her conscience, and Ron Rifkin ("LA
Confidential") is quite good as the father who says things like
"Relationship? What relationship? I'm your father, not your girlfriend." Of
the main cast, the two best actors are Nicky Katt ("The Limey"), who is
quite creepy as the twisted Greg, and Van Diesel ("Pitch Black") as Chris,
who is Seth's friend and the only other broker who seems to be a decent
person. Amazingly, the real standout performance here comes from Ben
Affleck. While Affleck appears in only three or four scenes, two of them
involve him giving amazingly stirring speeches with a talent I didn't
believe he possessed.
The only other fault I can think of is the film's ending. While Hollywood
writers may not have run out of original ideas afterall, they've certainly
forgotten how to end a film. "Boiler Room" is yet another one of those
films, like "Eye of the Beholder", which simply stops rather than ending.
We're left with dozens of unanswered questions and the feeling that Younger
simply ran out of ideas. "Boiler Room" runs a bit too long at two hours, and
I personally would have cut out the first fifteen minutes or so. I'd
recommend it to fans of the film, "Wall Street", and to anyone who has even
a passing interest in the stock market. I give it a well earned three and a
half out of five stars.
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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad, see it only if you've got nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem