This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Written by Bill Warren
Tuesday, 11 July 2000
|New Line Home Video
Ribisi, Nia Long, Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel, Tom Everett Scott, Ron
Rifkin, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Jamie Kennedy, Taylor Nichols
"Boiler Room" is surprisingly good, considering that it really says
nothing new, and is the work of a first-time feature director. The
movie chugs energetically along, raising a few moral questions that it
really doesn't bother to answer -- such as whether the intensely
high-pressure telephone sales techniques central to the movie are only
wrong under the circumstances shown. Screenwriter-director Ben Younger
apparently is suggesting that they're perfectly ethical at other times;
the end justifies the means. Few will agree.
But this highly dubious moral stance is reasonably well-hidden by the
fun and games of the rest of the movie. Giovanni Ribisi plays Seth
Davis, who tells us in his narration that he "just wanted in" to the
level of society where he could make millions before he turns 30. So he
chose "the white boy way of slinging crack rock -- I became a
stockbroker." He's one of a dozen or two brokers and apprentices
working at JT Marlin, young men who think they've got the world by the
Three months earlier, Seth was a college dropout running a successful
word-of-mouth casino out of his middle class house in suburban New
York. His father Marty (Ron Rifkin), a judge, is unaware of how Seth is
earning his living, but evidently Seth's been a trial to his family for
a long time, and Marty is always contemptuous of him, sometimes fondly
contemptuous, sometimes coldly contemptuous. And Seth always wants to
show his father up while at the same time wanting to prove to his
father he's a worthwhile person.
An old friend comes in to gamble, bringing with him a guy Seth's own
age who wears Armani suits and drives a sports car. Seth wants to hit
that level right now, and shows up at JT Marlin to audition for a job.
Smooth Jim Young (Ben Affleck), who, we're told, could sell bubblegum
in the lockjaw ward at Bellevue, gives a very David Mamet-like speech
to the newcomers, and a dazzled Seth signs up.
"Boiler Room" follows his learning curve, as he's taught the jargon,
how to land "whales" (potential big customers), how to work the phone
like a musical instrument, and just where he is in the extremely
hierarchical company: near the bottom. One of the hottest salesman is
Greg (Nicky Katt), who may be Seth's patron, but who patronizes him
every day. One reason he's always irked with Seth is that attractive JT
Marlin receptionist Abby (Nia Long) has abruptly ended her relationship
with Greg, and is clearly interested in Seth.
Another hotshot is Chris (Vin Diesel), a real showboat, who loves to
demonstrate his brilliant techniques standing in the middle of the
gigantic office space filled with men on phones (the "boiler room" of
the title). Michael Brantley (Tom Everett Scott) is the rarely-seen
head of the company, not much older than the guys in the boiler room.
It's an apt name -- the pressure and heat are intense, and the sales
are like small explosions. Seth learns a good broker will make 700
calls a day, and learns the key phrase: Always Be Closing -- Telling's
Not Selling. Never sell to women -- don't pitch the bitch. Almost
everyone in the company adores two movies, "Glengarry Glen Ross" and
"Wall Street" -- they can quote Gordon Gecko's most vivid lines, and
dearly believe that greed is good.
Seth gets along with everyone (except Greg), including sleek,
competitive Chris, bad-tempered Richie, Adam (Jamie Kennedy) and the
others. He even makes a very good sale on his own, to pushover Harry
Reynard (Taylor Nichols); this angers Greg, but Seth quickly gives him
the credit, pleasing Michael, but hardly mollifying Greg.
However, it turns out office politics are far from Seth's worst
problems at the company. One night he notices a curious sight: the SEC
overseer for the company is shredding documents. In a building next
door, Seth finds another boiler room, unpopulated, no desks or chairs,
but full of telephones. And Michael has arranged this. What's going on?
If you're stock market savvy, you've figured it out already, if only
because the movie is loosely based on a couple of real incidents.
Ribisi is well cast; not only does he look like he thinks he's smarter
than he is, but his face has a perpetually slightly stunned expression,
as if everything is moving faster than he can really deal with. Affleck
has a great time replicating Alec Baldwin's persona from "Glengarry,"
and Vin Diesel looks as though his bottled-up energy is going to rip
through his suits at any moment. Nia Long is very good in her somewhat
thankless role -- mostly she's a pawn for the writer-director, but she
makes Abby into a real character. Ron Rifkin plays Judge Davis as a
harsh, judgmental (what else?) man who's so convinced of his eternal
rightness that he can't even hear what his son has to say.
This is a well-packaged DVD, with "PC Friendly" extras. You can match
scenes to pages from the script, or even print out the entire script,
if you want to add it to your bookshelf. It's interesting to note that
Seth's narration simply is not in the script as given here. In addition
to the usual scene selections, languages and trailer, there are some
deleted scenes, including a completely different ending. (The one they
ended up with is much better; the original ending is cheaply ironic.)
The rap-filled score by The Angel can be isolated.
There's a commentary track combining separately-recorded sessions with
Ribisi and with director Younger and producer Jennifer Todd.
Unfortunately, Ribisi tends to drone on, losing himself in theory,
while Younger and Todd rarely comment on the scenes we're watching.
Technically, it's a fine job, with clean, clear sound and excellent
cinematography by Enrique Chediak; the interior of the boiler room
itself is always lit in a cold, blue light. Anne Stuhler's production
design is realistic and even amusing at times, as when Seth visits the
home of one of the higher-ups, only to find a vast mansion with almost
no furniture other than a couple of big-screen TVs, a tanning bed and a
Movies can take us places we haven't been, show us details of
professions we've never encountered, and "Boiler Room" is exactly in
this subgenre. It's an amusing, taut thriller with vivid characters and
an interesting milieu. And it's lots of fun to watch.
If you like this movie you may also like; The Apartment, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street
|Dolby Digital 5.1
||"PC Friendly;" extras include filmographies, commentary track, and deleted scenes
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||36-Inch Sony XBR