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"Boiler Room"

Directed by Ben Younger.
Written by Ben Younger.
Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  2/20/00


Seen any movies lately?  As you may have guessed, I have—in fact, so many that even the trailers are becoming a little yawn-inducing.  However, I want to address what I am realizing is a disturbing trend during some of these trailers:  the cheese factor.  Some of you may have seen a preview for a movie called “Love and Basketball.”  From the looks of it, this Omar Epps flick is about two players—a male and female superstar for their respective college teams at USC—that have been in love since they were 11 years old.  In my mind, this is an intriguing idea for a movie, and one that I think might get me to the theater...until, the last scene of the trailer.

Girl [with tears in eyes]:  “One more game, one-on-one.”
Boy:  “For what?”
Girl [pause]:  “...your heart.”

Now, in EVERY SINGLE THEATER that I have seen this trailer, this line has been followed by either nervous, hushed, or out-and-out belly laughter.  I laughed the first time that I saw it too, but now, I feel kind of bad for the filmmakers—are they the ones that designed the trailer, or was it the releasing studio that did it?  Regardless, that they could not sense how fluffy the line comes off to an audience is beyond me.  If movies look soft and fluffy to me in the preview, I only have one gut reaction:  chick flick.  I don't think Epps had this in mind when he made the movie...

Capping an extremely-rare Vin Diesel weekend, I decided to fly solo to the local moviehouse to catch Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi (“Saving Private Ryan,” “The Mod Squad”) in “Boiler Room.”  If you have seen the preview, then you pretty much know that this rise-and-fall tale of college dropout Seth Davis (Ribisi) involves his joining up with a large investment firm in the greater NYC area, a firm which has a shady side and a whole lot of 20-something rich guys working for it.  Davis—who is running a mini-casino out of his apartment each day of the week to make mad cash—meets up with an old college friend and his boss Greg (Nicky Katt), who is now working for a riches-to-more-riches investment firm called JT Marlin.  Davis decides that, like Greg, he wouldn't mind driving a Ferrari over his Volvo, so he decides to join up with JT Marlin and make it big on the stock market.  However, as the trading gets heavier and the cash starts to flow, Davis realizes that there is something decidedly wrong with the way his firm makes money.  How will he get out?  And, how many more investors' lives will have to be ruined before he figures that out?

I thought it worked.  The best thing about it is probably its great script, which lets Ribisi's Davis slowly figure it all out in a way that is both interesting and not overly confusing for someone that has no idea what an IPO is before the movie begins.  Oh, and all of the cussing that takes place over the course of its two-hour run.  Ribisi comes off as something of a dimwit whenever he is trying to explain himself to someone outside of the firm, but once he gets on the phone he does his best Charlie-Sheen-in-”Wall Street” impression to get investors to take the bait and buy shares of different stocks.  Speaking of “Wall Street,” this movie doesn't even try and deny that some of its influence comes from the Mike Douglas-as-Gordon Gecko thriller from the mid-80s—a great scene in “Boiler Room” has its principal stars watching the movie on TV and quoting lines from the movie like it was part of the series 7 exam.  Diesel is, once again, a straight bad-ass in this movie, as are Katt, Nia Long (as Ribisi's love interest), and workaholic Jamie Kennedy as Ribisi's friend from college.

And the pace is hot!  The movie flies along at a great clip and does a great job of inserting guy-loving adrenaline bursts at just the right times during the film.  Conversely, I thought some of the more dramatic elements involving Ribisi's relationship with his father and a trade 3/4 of the way through the movie with a father of two that shouldn't even be trading without his wife's approval worked as well.  Although Ben Affleck's turn here won't be confused with Alec Baldwin's great performance in “Glengarry Glen Ross” (if you haven't seen it, a great rent), he does a good job of trying to whip the junior sales assistants at JT Marlin into shape by cussing at them and generally trying to be a tough guy.  And, best of all (especially for a movie that on its surface looks like it is about 80 rich white guys), the soundtrack is loaded with semi-old-skool rap music.  It even has Ribisi, in voice-over, quoting Notorious B.I.G. in this film!  Who would have thunk it?

Now, sure, there are negatives, but I will keep them brief:  Ribisi's character, while he looks like a bright kid, seems to be the only peon at the firm that seems to understand that something is dangerously wrong with everyone in the company's status as a millionaire.  And, Nia Long's Abby—as the company secretary—gets called a whore a couple of times and then sells out Ribisi later in the film (this is NOT a surprise once you see the film).  Oh, and she is the only black character in the movie.  Something about that didn't sit Ribisi tells her during the movie, “[working at the firm] doesn't seem like the best environment for a black woman like yourself...”, which seemed to make sense even if she is making $80,000 a year.  Hmm...

But, overall, a very good film that keeps things lively through this relatively-slow movie season.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09