“Boiler Room” is an intense, graphic, testosterone-laden, man’s-man-type movie about … stock brokers.
That’s right, the weenies of the ’80s (who are the idols of the people in this film) are the subject of this worthy first effort from new director Ben Younger.
Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is a New York college drop-out, but he’s ambitious: He’s established an illegal 24-hour casino in his apartment. His father (Ron Rifkin), a federal judge, is not too happy with his son’s choice of careers, and he withholds not only his blessing but even, it would seem, his paternal love until Seth can do something respectable.
Working for J.T. Marlin, an investment firm, would seem to be just what the judge ordered, but J.T. Marlin is no ordinary firm. Seth’s job, along with dozens of other wannabe millionaires, is to call people who own any stock in anything and try to sell them on some new IPO for a product that may or may not actually exist. They collect the commission and everyone’s moved on to the next product by the time this one comes crashing down.
Seth, like everyone else, wants to get rich without earning it. He quotes rapper Notorious B.I.G. (whom I will just paraphrase) as saying that everyone wants to either sell crack or shoot hoops to make a fast buck. No one wants to work for it.
The rap soundtrack, the vulgar language from the all-male staff, the fact that J.T. Marlin’s official policy is to not sell stock to women (they worry too much, it is reasoned) — all of this underscores the film’s undeniably MALE point of view. (Do women even WANT to get rich quick? Seems like it’s always men who want that.)
While Younger’s inexperience shows in most of the melodramatic, maudlin scenes between father and son (Younger also scripted), he also proves he can construct real tension, too. A sequence involving Seth and a man whose life savings he may have blown on worthless stock is gut-wrenching and harrowing.
Ribisi carries the film on his young shoulders, carefully showing the changes his character goes through from beginning to end. The supporting cast is mixed, from the great Vin Diesel as a sympathetic supervisor to a weak-but-loud Ben Affleck who barely registers as the drill sergeant-style trainer.
Overall, “Boiler Room” is a curiously provocative look at the male psyche, ultimately turning inward to examine issues of ethics and morality — all while still being as crass and vulgar as possible. Just like a guy.
B (; )