Boiler Room


Movie Review by Rachel Simnett

Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Affleck, Nia Long
Director: Ben Younger

There?s a scene in BOILER ROOM where a group of young brokers are watching a scene from Oliver Stone?s WALL ST, each one showing off how much dialogue they know. It?s like they?re reciting their creed. This scene seems to mirror what?s going on in the film overall. In writing his story, first time director Ben Younger has borrowed heavily from Oliver Stone?s film and also, less obviously, from David Mamet?s GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. The surroundings are just less glossy (Queens and Long Island replacing Manhattan), the people are all younger and the film has a restless, gritty, urban feel.

But the story elements are familiar. 19 year-old college drop out Seth Davis, very well played by Giovanni Ribisi, is the kid hungry for recognition, respect and a bucket load of cash. Why does he want this? Well, he believes in “honor in the dollar”, but what he really wants is the respect of his constantly disappointed father ? another great supporting performance by Ron Rifkin. Incurring dad?s disapproval by running an illegal casino for college kids in Queens, Seth grabs at the first opportunity knocking on his door, and takes a job at J T Marlin – the only brokers firm which offers him a fast track to the top.

Walking into a tatty office in the mundane surroundings of Long Island, Seth enters the world of the boiler room. Here he?s coached officially by his mentor, senior broker Gregg Feinstein (Nicky Katt), unofficially by motor mouth millionaire Chris (Vin Deisel) and by the ?head recruiter?, (Ben Affleck), whose job it is to turn roomfuls of young naive kids into fortune generating machines. Affleck?s whirlwind cameo owes much to Alec Baldwin?s ten minute tirade in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS but who cares? ? it?s still a lot of fun. Then there?s the love interest ? Abby, played by Nia Long, is the firm?s receptionist who puts up with it all because she needs the money to look after her sick mother.

So Seth gets to work, learning how to persuade gullible customers to invest their savings in dubious new stocks, so he can earn a place amongst the boiler room?s top set. Here all that matters in life is how much you make ? not how you do it or what you achieve. The big question is ? just how far will Seth go to get what he wants?

This financial sweatshop is convincingly recreated ? the chauvinistic banter, the bullying, the euphoria of a closed sale and the frenzied partying at the end of a long day. Some of the boiler room scenes are really engrossing, if only because you can?t quite believe this actually goes on. The contrast between the outward signs of wealth ?Ferraris, designer suits ? and the drab environments most of the characters inhabit is also well observed. And the excellent ensemble cast creates a great deal of energy, gelling well with the restless camerawork and edgy soundtrack.

But the film doesn?t really say anything that hasn?t been said before: sales is about selling people things they don?t want; greed corrupts people; and the inevitable hard fall is always just around the corner.

3 out of 6 stars