The title _Boiler_Room_ is not meant to be taken literally, of course,
but this smart tale of greed in the stock trade indeed reaches a
figurative boil. First-time writer-director Ben Younger sets his film
off like a rocket, propelled by his and his eager cast's energy and
skill. It's unfortunate that the boiling point is reached prematurely,
but while the film's forceful momentum wanes, it never completely fades
Greed is hardly a fresh topic for a movie, in particular in the Wall
Street arena; most notably in Oliver Stone's _Wall_Street_.
_Boiler_Room_ cannot help but recall that film, and Younger even cheekily
references it in one amusing scene; he also pays homage to what can be
deemed the film's other "cross" (as in "_Wall_Street_ crossed with..."):
_Glengarry_Glen_Ross_, written for the stage and screen by David Mamet.
_Glengarry_'s mantra of "always be closing" is used by the young sharks
working for _Boiler_'s J.T. Marlin, a scrappy brokerage firm that
aggressively pushes stock shares on unsuspecting buyers. Little do these
buyers--and, for that matter, the sellers--know that the shares are in
companies that do not exist.
When the film's main character, hungry "boiler room" (so named for the
pressure cooker atmosphere and cramped space where the brokers work)
up-and-comer Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) discovers that little fact,
_Boiler_Room_ turns into a fairly pedestrian morality play; will he do
the right thing and take the firm down, or will he just stick with it and
the illegally-obtained money that comes along with the ride? The
film--and Younger--is clearly at their best in the early stages, which
drops the audience, along with Seth, in the thick of the high-stakes
action. Younger clearly did his homework on the subject, and the
authenticity he brings to the dialogue and the atmosphere makes for
When taking a few steps away from the office, Younger runs into some
problems. Much like how the story's turn is rather humdrum, so is the
central conflict between Seth and his judge father (Ron Rifkin);
ne'er-do-well Seth--who, before hooking up with J.T. Marlin, ran a card
casino out of his apartment--wants nothing more than to win his uptight
father's respect, and this bit of melodrama is too contrived to
completely work. Nonetheless, this subplot is kept watchable and
somewhat involving by the performances of Rifkin and especially Ribisi.
Ribisi rebounds nicely from a terrible 1999 (Remember _The_Other_Sister_
and _The_Mod_Squad_? Hopefully not), providing a likable and magnetic
anchor in the often frenzied goings-on. Everyone in the cast makes a
lasting impression; standing out in the boiler room are Vin Diesel and
Nicky Katt as more seasoned hotshots, and Ben Affleck is wonderfully oily
in the small role of the firm's head recruiter. As J.T. Marlin's
receptionist, Abby, the talented--if underused--Nia Long is able to come
off as more than the film's token injection of estrogen and Seth's love
While the energy of _Boiler_Room_'s story peters out, the actors never
let up, picking up the slack, carrying the film down the home stretch.
_Boiler_Room_ cannot be called a completely successful debut for Younger,
but it is an indisputable triumph for the young acting talent on board.