Boiler Room

Boiler Room

2000, R, 117 min. Directed by Ben Younger. Starring Ben Affleck, Bill Sage, Taylor Nichols, Jamie Kennedy, Ron Rifkin, Scott Caan, Nicky Katt, Nia Long, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 18, 2000

“People that tell you that money is the root of all evil don't have any,” says the Boiler Room's power-talking recruiter Jim Young (Affleck), and that sentiment, debased though it may be, is at the heart of this remarkable debut feature by New Yorker Ben Younger. The boiler room of the title is at the Long Island brokerage firm of J.T. Marlin, a willfully shady enclave of young hustlers desperate to grab that quick 'n' easy first mil and bail before the Feds sniff trouble. It's here, in the windowless, stale-aired melee of cold-calling, power-suited, off-off-Wall Street hotshots that strangers' lives are ruined and the almighty buck bows to nada. Seth Davis (Ribisi), a nice Jewish boy from Queens, recent college dropout, and sometime illegal casino runner, finds that the boiler room at J.T. Marlin offers him what he's been looking for all his life: easy entrée to the fast track of Benjamins, girls, and most important, the respect of his father, a federal judge (Rifkin). Seduced by the lure of the good life, Seth is finessed into play by the firm's No. 2 Greg Feinstein (Austin resident Katt), a weasely, insecure mentor, and Chris (Vin Diesel), who much prefer to look the other way as NASD and SEC laws are broken on a minute-by-minute basis. Younger's film is a redemption story, of sorts -- bad boy gets worse then gets wise -- but the film is remarkable more for the hubris it demonstrates by infiltrating and exposing the cloistered, hypnotic world of the boiler room than for its occasionally sappy backstory (Ribisi's conflicts with Rifkin feel real enough, though, and one particular waterworks scene pulls nary a punch). According to the press notes and a recent New York Times article, Younger spent months interviewing ex- and current employees at a variety of New York-area boiler rooms, and the wealth of information he picked up is translated directly to the screen. Audience members may not be able to tell an IPO from an RIP going in, but they'll practically be able to mount their own boiler room shenanigans after the lights go up (should they feel the urge). As the film's moral center, Ribisi's hangdog mug serves him well -- he's less a bad kid than a kid so desperate to be good that he loses his emotional compass for a while. In fact, none of these twentysomething wheeler dealers are such evil cads, they're just temporarily blinded by all that green. As an indictment of millennial greed in a society where one in every 36 working Americans (according, again, to the film's press materials) is a millionaire, Boiler Room is tough stuff, recalling middleweight David Mamet at its best moments (there's much speechifying on the nature of Wall Street's “Greed is good” theorem). The film occasionally suffers from backstory problems -- apart from Seth, who are all these guys? -- but plows on relentlessly despite that. Not a bad debut for a kid from Queens who never even went to film school.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Ben Younger Films
Bleed for This
A boxer returns to the ring in this conventional drama

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 18, 2016

Prime
With genuine sparks between its two lovestruck leads and a delightfully flinchy performance from Meryl Streep, this comedy is just what its title implies: prime.

Marc Savlov, Oct. 28, 2005

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Boiler Room, Ben Younger, Ben Affleck, Bill Sage, Taylor Nichols, Jamie Kennedy, Ron Rifkin, Scott Caan, Nicky Katt, Nia Long, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle