At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Boiler Room “00”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Crime Drama/ Stars: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Ron Rifkin, Jamie Kennedy, Ben Affleck, Taylor Nichols, Bill Sage, Tom Everett Scott, John Griesemer, David Younger, Russell Harper, Mark Webber, Christopher Fitzgerald, Donna Mitchell, André Vippolis, Jon Abrahams, Will McCormack, Jared Ryan, Anson Mount, Kirk Acevedo, Seth Ullian, Eddie Malavarca, Lisa Gerstein, Ross Ryman, Peter Maloney, Mark Moshe Bellows, Alex Webb, Daniel Serafini-Sauli, Taylor Patterson, Michael McCarthy, Marsha Dietlein, Siobhan Fallon, Desmond Harrington, Stephen Scibetta/Runtime: 120 minutes

If you want a great movie about the ins and outs of Wall Street sleaze then watch either Wall Street (duh) or The Wolf of Wall Street (even bigger duh). If you are looking for a great movie about what it’s like to be a sleazy salesman then watch Glengarry Glen Ross. If however you want a good, maybe underrated a little bit, slice of cinema that combines both of those into one movie then I might just have a film for you in the form of the long gone year 2000’s Boiler Room. A slice of cinema that can best be described as the late 90s/early 2000s answer to both the aforementioned movies, but perhaps a bit more Wall Street seeing as, like that movie, this film operates on the idea of the corruptive nature of both money and greed on a person’s soul whilst also showing that perhaps honesty really is the best policy and that Wall Street is nothing more than a bunch of blood sucking piranha. Yet lest you think that a film operating as an updating of these films both of which are highly regarded not the least of which because of Michael Douglas’ iconic performance as the infamous Gordon Gekko in Wall Street might just wind up being nothing more than a by the numbers copy of those films that should have been released direct to video rather than theatrically well that is where you would be wrong. I say this because, despite only operating on a budget of 7 million dollars, this slice of cinema is not only fairly well helmed and brilliantly scripted, but it also has in front of the camera fairly riveting work from a cast of top notch talent. Sure the ending is perhaps a bit tidier than it should be, but at the end of the day there is no denying that Boiler Room is still a fairly good look at a world of immense financial gain and the worst kind of moral decay imaginable.

The plot is as follows: Boiler Room tells the story of a 19-year old young man by the name of Seth Davis. Here is a kid who, much like a lot of kids of his era, is not content in any way whatsoever with having to do any degree of “hard work” for any serious financial gain and would instead rather strike it rich as quickly as he possibly can hence his dropping out of college and running a profitable yet high there up on the illegal meter underground casino much to the consternation of his strict and demanding dad…who also happens to be a federal judge. Things soon change however when an old friend coming back into his life at one of his casino tables results in our hero being clued in to a possible job opportunity. An opportunity that sees Seth, even though he did drop out of college, being brought in as a broker in training (or trainee for short) at a small investment firm just straight off the coast of Wall Street known as JT Marlin. Thus, following an in equal measure passionate and profane pep talk from the firm’s co-founder that promises he will earn at least a million dollars by year 3 of his time at the firm, we see our hero (more out of wanting dear ol’ dad’s respect than anything else) descend into the chaotic, stressful to the max, quick in tempo, and fast paced land of the sales floor to try and make his way within the company hierarchy. Yet whilst most of his trainee group has trouble adjusting or living up to the high pressure environment, we see that our hero actually has no such issues and slowly but surely makes a name for himself with the company eventually being taken under the wing of a senior broker by the name of Chris Varick as well as begins seeing the firm’s gorgeous receptionist….even though she used to be involved with one of his bosses who is still desperately using every unscrupulous method at his disposal to try and win her back even if she is having absolutely none of it. Yet even though things are good and his dad has actually begun respecting him again, we still see that the further down this proverbial rabbit hole he goes, the more and more our hero starts to get that familiar (at least to this kind of film) vibe that not only is this paradise perhaps not as heavenly as it appears to be, but also that there can’t be any way that the methods and business practices the firm is utilizing could be even remotely close to the word “legal” as they pitch time and time again that it is. Suffice it to say how right he is and what he does in order to try and stay ahead of the dominoes when they start to fall around him in a way that is perhaps not the most beneficial for him I will leave for you to discover for yourself…..

Now I’m not going lie to you dear reader: for the cinema aficionados amongst you, don’t be surprised if you start thinking of no less than a trinity of other films whilst giving this slice of cinema a view. They would be 1987’s Wall Street not only for the subject matter, but also because of how much it seems to serve as motivation and inspiration for the firm’s employees to the point that they can even recite it by heart in one darkly amusing scene. Then there is 1992’s Glengarry Glen Ross since that is where the office gets a lot of their lingo from with particular regard to what they think ABC stands for. Finally, there are also hints of a film from 1997 known as In the Company of Men contained in this slice of cinema with particular regard to the fact that the bonds between the men who work at JT Marlin seem to be equal parts egotistical, competitiveness, testosterone, greed, and fake affability with one another thus making it curious to see how our hero, a guy who’s willing to form genuine relationships with both the main company secretary Abbie and his bullheaded father is going to really fare in this pool of piranha. It should also be noted that, at the time, first time scribe/helmer Ben Younger knew what he was doing when he sculpted this film’s screenplay. This is because, besides applying for a job at an actual firm like the one in this film and witnessing how they operate, he also interviewed quite a few brokers as well under the condition of anonymity. As a result, I can’t entirely say one way or another with respect to this slice of cinema’s credibility, but it does most assuredly give off the vibe of being believable. It’s also worth pointing out that the attention that is being paid to make this slice of cinema look as realistically detailed as possible permits this movie to be just as insightful about the world of stock brokers as Glengarry Glen Ross was about being a salesman. Now there are moments in this slice of cinema where we see film helmer Younger show his lack of experience as a director. This is true not only with respect to the whole narrative sub arc dealing with the issues between Seth and his father, but we also see some weird creative choices like one scene that sees way too many close up shots of both Nia Long and Giovanni Ribisi. Yet these missteps don’t really deter from the overall quality of the film, but a lot of that can be attributed to the potency of the subject matter as well as the caliber of the performances of this slice of cinema’s fairly talented cast.

With that being said, perhaps the one component to this slice of cinema that fires on all cylinders would have to be the cast that has been assembled to bring this slice of cinema’s narrative to life. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this cast however is the fact that not a single character in this could easily be called “100% innocent”. Sure some of them are more innocent than others beyond a doubt, but as for someone who is a genuinely good person that is not the case. Instead this film makes the creative choice to have these people be a terrific blend of both good and sleazy and it works to the film’s benefit wonderfully. Indeed in the lead role of Seth, we get a fairly well done turn from Giovanni Ribsi who I have always enjoyed whenever he pops up in something from Gangster Squad in 2013 to his Monster of the Week role in an episode of The X-Files and here is no different. Sure Seth is nearly as amoral and just as money hungry as his colleagues at the firm, but he also has a tad bit more integrity and heart than them as well (even if it is buried fairly deep down) and it is in the inner conflict between doing what’s best for himself and what’s best for other people that we see Ribsi is really able to make this character shine and be his own man. We also get terrific work in this from none other than Vin Diesel as Seth’s mentor of sorts in the firm Chris Varrick and he actually does a fairly good job in the role. Indeed I know here lately it seems like the only roles that Diesel seems interested in playing are named Groot, Riddick, and Dominick Toretto and not exclusively in that order, but people often forget that there have been movies like Saving Private Ryan, 2006’s Find Me Guilty, and this where Diesel is actually willing to show that he can actually flex other acting muscles besides his usual set. Indeed in the role of Chris, Diesel gives us a guy who yes is undoubtedly one of the boys in this testosterone-fueled madhouse and who yes is very talented in the arts of sleaze and deception, but who also has managed to still retain some decency about him. Suffice it to say then that Diesel does great at playing both sides of the guy in a way that is fairly admirable and proof that Diesel maybe should try harder to find roles that are outside his range because when he does he’s actually pretty darn good. Yet perhaps one of the finest jewels in this slice of cinema’s acting crown would have to be the co-starring role in this by Ben Affleck as firm co-founder/ foul mouthed trainee motivational coach Jim Young. Indeed here is a young man who is equal parts sleazy, moderately wealthy, arrogant to the hilt, and inspired by both Gordon Gekko and Alec Baldwin’s motivator from Glengarry Glen Ross in both his views on business and how he whips his underlings into shape respectively. Suffice it to say that it might be a genuine co-starring role, but Affleck is electrifying in every minute of screen time he is given and just gives the role his all and then some in the best way possible. Now I do appreciate the work done in this by Nia Long and Ron Rifkin as Seth’s love interest Abbie and his hard-nosed father respectively, but I also felt that their characterizations were ones that we have seen done better countless times in slices of a cinema of a similar ilk (see Darryl Hannah and Martin Sheen in Wall Street for example) and as such they’re not bad, but they also don’t really bring anything new to the table either.

All in all I’m not going to lie to you dear reader: if you are looking for a slice of cinema that does a wonderful job of dealing with the sleaziness let alone the take no prisoners methodology of either being a salesman or working on Wall Street then I would definitely check out Glengarry Glen Ross from 1992 and (what else?) Wall Street from 1987 respectively with perhaps an honorable mention in the latter category going to the criminally underseen Margin Call from 2011. However if you are in the neighborhood and want a slice of cinema that unashamedly wears the first two examples I gave like badges of honor on its sleeve whilst engaging in a narrative that yes we as movie going audiences have seen before time and time again, but is in this case still brought to life on both sides of the camera in a wonderfully dependable workmanlike fashion by talents that clearly are having fun working with this distinct material especially with respect to this slice of cinema’s gifted cast of young performers then I would definitely find this slice of cinema and, following a consultation or two with your financial advisor, give it a chance to show you what it’s all about. Just please be aware that any stock tips it gives you might not be entirely on the up and up. Just a friendly piece of advice is all. On a scale of 1-5 I give Boiler Room “00” a solid 3 out of 5.

*As has been said about other movies I have reviewed, I have determined that the trailer for this film is too spoiler-heavy. I have chosen therefore not to post it with this review. Thank you as always for reading everyone and I will see you guys….at the movies! Ag*