The Boiler Room

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Ben Younger

REVIEWED: 02-21-00

Do clever homages make a derivative movie any more original? Maybe not, but it's hard not to be taken in by the chutzpah and chops of Ben Younger, whose debut film Boiler Room is an MTV-generation retooling of Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Firm, with all but the last acknowledged in cinematic footnotes. The Charlie Sheen character from Wall Street this time is Seth (Giovanni Ribisi), a college dropout making money running an illegal "casino" in his Queens apartment. His ambitions stir when old friend Gregg (Nicky Katt) pulls up in a Ferrari, inviting him to join up with J.T. Marlin, a disreputable brokerage firm miles from Wall Street on Long Island. Soon Seth's making a mint along with all the other mini-Gordon Gekkos (a scene in which the gang parrots Michael Douglas's lines in Wall Street is creepily effective), pretending that his fortune hasn't been made at the cost of his soul and his clients' life savings. Why should he care? It's not so much the money as the rush as Seth exults on the phone with his barrage of bullshit and bravado. Younger doesn't follow this nihilism to its bitter end, however; he grants his hero a lame excuse (his father, the ever-vitriolic bad dad Ron Rifkin, slapped him as a child when he broke his leg) and an eventual change of heart (he feels guilty about a sucker he has ruined). In the end Younger goes even easier on Seth than the feds. Though Ben Affleck (trying out the Alec Baldwin role from Glengarry) doesn't help his case any when he asks if anyone has seen that movie, Boiler Room still churns out more steam than hot air.

--Peter Keough

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The Boiler Room
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