Directed By Ben Younger
New Line Cinema
By: Eric G.
Boiler Room may borrow heavily from its obvious influences (Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street), but novice director Ben Younger manages to give props to his precursors while still managing to pull off an unique twist in the cliched, high stakes New York stock brokerage genre. Giovanni Ribisi plays an underground entrepreneur with half a conscience trying to make good for his family’s sake by getting what he thinks is a respectable job. Unsurprisingly, he ends up making things far worse than he imagined when he gets in too deep with a shady firm of fly by night stock traders.
Younger’s film is fast paced and street wise- driven by spitfire dialogue and an urban soundtrack. He avoids the easy way out in every scene. This plot could have simply ended up an ubiquitous John Grisham thriller in lesser hands, but Younger fights Hollywood complacency with gritty performances from Ribisi and Vin Diesel, neither of whom has ‘sleek, A-list actor’ written on his face. Just for the record, the film wouldn’t have been the same with co-star Ben Affleck in the title role.
Ribisi brings instant credibility to his first leading role. He’s a versatile actor. His stint on Friends as Phoebe’s slow-witted brother begot his portrayal of a mentally retarded young lover in The Other Sister (yes, that film stars Dianne Keaton, who has obviously forgotten all about her cool Woody Allen days, but Julliette Lewis cancels her out, leaving Ribisi on the positive side). The Mod Squad was negligible teen fare, but Boiler Room truly showcases Ribisi’s acting chops. His scenes with Ron Rifkin as his stubborn and hard-hearted father are disturbingly real. Ribisi’s character crumbles in his presence, but everyone else gets the tough facade.
Younger isn’t trying to make some grand statement about his generation because cutting corners to make a fast buck is not uniquely definitive of so-called Generation X. He doesn’t resort to trite moralizing either. Ribisi’s character follows the virtue of selfishness to its inevitable end and gets out before it consumes him. Boiler Room does not teach a new lesson, but it does inject new life into a formula that is tried and true.