Boiler Room (2000)

Written and Directed by Ben Younger
Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Nia Long, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt

My Advice: Matinee.

Seth (Ribisi) is a very enterprising young man and makes good money running his own business. Of course, that business is an illegal casino that he runs out of his apartment, but hey, whatever works, right? Well, when his father (Ron Rifkin) finds out about it, he's very disappointed in his son. But now Seth has a chance to make good. An old friend (Jamie Kennedy) brings by a guy named Greg (Katt), and Greg's got a proposition for Seth—come to work for me at a stock brokerage firm and I'll make you some serious, serious cash.

And it goes on from there. Although it starts out a little slow, it quickly evolves into a weird hybrid between Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross and then—references both films by name. That's a major hoot. But that's just nifty stuff for film geeks, right? What about for "real" people? You've basically got a bunch of over-stimulated guys running around acting like...well, over-stimulated guys. This can be amusing, like when Vin Diesel is making the kill, closing a customer, while surrounded by his co-workers like they're spectators in a Roman coliseum. This can also be disturbing, such as James Caan wanting to beat the crap out of anyone—he's just looking for an excuse. The reason these scenes work is due to a strong ensemble. Most of them are one note characters, such as Caan's "the violent one" and Kennedy's "the trash-talking one." Ben Affleck is channeling Alec Baldwin in the aforementioned Mamet and doing it quite well. Vin Diesel is impressive as always and Ron Rifkin hands in a good turn as Ribisi's father. However the true stand out is Ribisi himself. He goes from naive but resourceful to a killer on the phone, getting into the life and leaning back while gripping the handrail—and I believed him the whole way. Recently he's been the only bright spot in some bland films, but here he gets a chance to shine and delivers.

The place where the story falls short is in the subplot concerning Seth's desire to please his father and gain his respect. The way this is wrapped up seems far too simple for such a deep-seated hurt, and that pestered me a bit. Also, the film is a bit slow at the beginning—we're waiting for Seth's job to take off so the rest of the film can as well. But even taking these into account, it's a respectable debut from Younger, taut and staffed with good performances. Catch it one afternoon to save some bucks.

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Buy the book The Boiler Room and Other Telephone Sales Scams from Amazon!

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