Boiler Room (2000)

reviewed by
Chuck Schwartz

Cranky Critic® movie reviews: Boiler Room Rated [R], 120 minutes Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Affleck, Nia Long, Vin Diesel Written and Directed by Ben Younger website:

IN SHORT: Both a gripping story and an assault on all senses.

At a time when every over the hill teevee celebrity is giving away millions of dollars in the new glut of prime time game shows filling our small screens, it is somehow appropriate that we once again get a big screen flick about the rise and fall of folk to whom the phrase "Greed is Good" is the watchword of the only faith they worship, the Almighty Buck.

Boiler Room, written and directed by first time-er Ben Younger, plainly sets its sights on predecessors like Wall Street and Glen Garry Glen Ross, and it meets its target. Even the usually annoying presence of nonstop rap as the soundtrack music for the first half hour of the film didn't bother me (But I digress...)

Out near the campus of Queens College, Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is running a brisk, though illegal, business; a 24 hour a day backroom casino for the kidlets of the campus. A college dropout himself, Seth's occupation puts him in direct conflict with his father Marty(Ron Rifkin) which brings up one of those father-son-mother in the middle subplots that Cranky laps up with a spoon. Into the casino one day comes Greg Feinstein (Nicky Katt), flashing an incredible roll of bills and a yellow Ferrari parked in the street outside. Knowing that dad wants him out of the illegal world of gambling, Seth bolts to the more white collar world of the stock market.

In retrospect, Seth will liken his work to that of ghettoboys dealing to the habits of crack whores. In this case, he is selling greed -- the promise of riches in unknown penny stocks sold via the telephone to a cold list of unsuspecting suckers. We follow Seth along the path to ruin, guided by professional hard sellers, with egos the size of Montana (and many with fists to match). It's only a bit part but Ben Affleck burns onscreen as the recruiter for a firm called J.T. Marlin, owned by an equally mysterious slickster named Michael Brantley (Tom Everett Scott). The battle in the pits, where Seth rises to the top of the new recruits, is best defined by the vicious rivalry between Greg (who found Seth) and another senior broker, Chris Varick (Vin Diesel) who has trained the kidlet.

Seth is taught how to dress, how to pitch, how to manipulate and lie, how to close a sale. In short, he learns how to take the rubes for every penny they've stashed in their retirement funds. It is a world in which a man with no moral center can make an insane amount of money, and still be young enough to live with their parents. So... what happens when a man who has had all notions of ethics drummed out of him gets some? I'll leave it at that.

Boiler Room is an electrifying assault on your senses, with performances that scream from the screen (Ribisi, Diesel and Affleck particularly) and a pace that doesn't let up. The necessary scenes detailing the results of Seth's calls initially feel out of place but, as I said, they're necessary. This is a world where testosterone is sprinkled on the breakfast cereal at the start of the day and rivalries in the pit extend to who will nail the lovely receptionist (Nia Long) outside the locked doors.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Boiler Room, he would have paid...


Boiler Room is macho to the max. The rating may prove to be a half a buck or so high, six months from now, but you haven't suffered through the crap that I've suffered through this past six weeks. Boiler Room was a welcome breeze despite an incredibly offensive rap over the end-titles. (Cranky wonders if this is what his grandparents felt about rock and roll. But that's just me.)

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