Rated R - Running Time: 1:59 - Released 2/18/00

Boiler Room is writer/director Ben Younger's first cinematic effort, and it is an impressive debut. Younger obviously is a fan of the 1987 Douglas/Sheen film Wall Street; not only is his story closely patterned after it, but a long scene from Wall Street is actually featured. It is also a commanding return for 24-year-old actor Giovanni Ribisi, who, after an impressive supporting role in Saving Private Ryan, delivered an overwrought performance in The Other Sister, and then appeared in another sub-par film, The Mod Squad. Ribisi possesses the talent to bring a character to life, and is well cast as protagonist Seth Davis. It is interesting that this film's trailer makes it appear that the star is Ben Affleck, who in reality has only a few minutes of screen time, while Ribisi is in almost every scene. Guess we know who has more drawing power.

Seth is a young college dropout from New York City who admits in an opening voiceover that he never possessed the desire to work for a living; he just "wanted in." Into the big money, that is. He joins up with a "boiler room" stock trading firm called J.T. Marlin, with the promise that "you will make your first million in two years." Soon he's hard-selling stocks over the phone to people who can't afford them, making obscene amounts of money for his team leader, Greg (Nicky Katt), and impressing the CEO (Tom Everett Scott), the recruiter (Affleck), and other team leaders like Chris (Vin Diesel, also from Ryan).

Although Seth's main objective for joining the firm is to earn the respect and acceptance of his stern father (Ron Rifkin), a federal judge with whom he has a long history of conflict, he soon develops a taste for it, becoming the firm's top producer among the new recruits. But he begins seeing things he doesn't understand, like papers being shredded during off hours, and, though his fears are dismissed by his new girlfriend Abbie (Nia Long), the firm's receptionist, he smells something fishy. Just like Charlie Sheen, he must decide whether to turn a blind eye to the corruption in the firm or go up against the big fish with possibly disasterous repercussions.

Ben Younger, who not only wrote and directed this film, but plays a minor part as one of the traders, has crafted an intense thriller about this often risky business. Apparently, his research for the subject included interviewing people who work at such an establishent and even applying for a job. The story, which simmers from the first minute, turns up the heat considerably as we enter the final reel. His directorship is also cunning, portraying the group as a bunch of snotty young punks in Armani suits and Ferraris, who have succumbed to the considerable seduction of quick riches at the price of integrity. In addition to Ribisi, good work is done by the supporing cast, especially Rifkin as Seth's father. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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