Picks and Pans Review: Boiler Room
After weeks of movies that are outright lousy (Supernova) or misconceived (Eye of the Beholder), it's a welcome relief to find a film that is not only good but connects with an audience. Boiler Room is a timely, compelling drama about young would-be financial whizzes who toil at a crooked brokerage firm that is both geographically and socially a long way from Wall Street. The sons of the striving rather than the privileged classes, they work crammed into a large, airless cavern (the boiler room of the title) on Long Island, where they huddle over phones sweet-talking, cajoling and sometimes bullying gullible marks into investing their life savings in no-name stocks that will surely drop tomorrow. The life these guys aspire to is that depicted in Wall Street, the 1987 Oliver Stone drama they repeatedly watch on video, mouthing the lines. But their tactics and morals are more Glengarry Glen Ross, the 1992 film about real estate barracudas.
Entering this scuzzy world of cold-calling con men is Seth (Ribisi), the film's conflicted protagonist. The son of a federal judge (Rifkin), he is a decent sort with a weakness for easy cash. As a trainee at the firm, he begins to suspect that there's something untoward about the highpressure sales tactics and whopping commissions, but he is already hooked on the fast money and adrenaline high of making the sale. In an agile performance that ought to help him break out of the twenty-something actor pack, Ribisi (The Other Sister) shows a core of hurt and need for fatherly approval reminiscent of James Dean in East of Eden. (There's also strong work by Affleck as Seth's nasty boss, Rifkin as his dad and Long as his girl.)
The film—the first by writer-director Ben Younger, an obviously talented 27-year-old who based the script on his own flirtation with a similar job—moves along at a brisk clip but still allows its characters time to breathe and grow. To borrow a phrase, Boiler Room is an IPO you don't want to miss out on. (R)
Bottom Line: The place to be
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