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Boiler Room (2000)
Boiler Room is a 2000 American drama film written and directed by Ben Younger, and starring Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott, Ron Rifkin and Jamie Kennedy. The film is based partly on the real life experiences of Jordan Belfort. In 1999 Seth Davis (Ribisi), a 19-year-old college dropout runs an illegal but successful underground casino in his Queens apartment. His father Marty (Rifkin), a New York Federal District judge, disapproves of him and worries that Seth's criminal living may cost him his judgeship. In hopes to get on his father's good side, Seth joins J.T. Marlin, a brokerage firm based in a non-descript office building in or near Commack, NY, after Greg Weinstein (Katt) comes to his home to check out Seth's business and offers him a job at the firm. Seth agrees and becomes a trainee under Weinstein. Everything seems to work out for Seth in the early days of his job. Arriving at J.T. Marlin, he learns from Jim Young (Affleck), one of the heads of the company, what he needs to do to become a millionaire working at the firm. Seth learns the ways of the company and does very well at his new job.
Boiler Room is the story of Seth (Ribisi), a 19-year-old college dropout obsessed with the American dream of easy money. After concluding rather quickly that college isn't necessarily the fast track to a quick buck, he opens up an underground casino out of his house in Queens, providing a popular service for the local city college kids. After his disapproving father (Rifkin) finds out about the casino, Seth, feeling a repressed need to gain his father's approval, looks into an opportunity to become a stockbroker at the small firm of J.T. Marlin.
As it turns out, the firm, located in the heart of Long Island, conspicuously far from Wall Street, is a 'chop shop,' shorthand for a brokerage house more interested in pawning off securities for its own interests rather than serving its customers. When Seth's father discovers this, not only does Seth not find the approval he was hoping for, but he is excommunicated from the family.
Though he has only a minor part in the film, Ben Affleck is highlighted in trailers for the film, and the discerning observer will notice a strong similarity between his scene in the trailer, and Alec Baldwin's immortalized portrayal of a real estate shark in Glengarry Glen Ross. In fact, Affleck's big scene draws heavily on Baldwin's, though his performance (and the material he has to work with) does not live up to what is almost universally agreed upon as the best performance of Baldwin's career. This is not the only referencing of David Mamet's portrayal of the dark world of real estate cold-calling in this movie, however. Later in the film, when receiving some instructions on how to cold-call potential customers, Seth is told to remember one of Baldwin's catch phrases from that scene, 'A-B-C. Always Be Closing.' Boiler Room also liberally references, both directly and indirectly, its direct predecessor in the 'greed is good' category of filmmaking. Not only drawing its basic theme and plot structure from Wall Street, Boiler Room also draws its best dialogue during a scene in which a number of young stock brokers sitting in one of their sparely decorated mansions, compete with each other to quote lines from Wall Street, whose antagonist, Gordon Gecko, is obviously regarded as an idol within the group.
As a movie, Boiler Room is moderately entertaining. Vin Diesel in particular, off a strong turn in Saving Private Ryan, turns in another powerful performance as Chris, one of Seth's mentors at J.T. Marlin. Sadly though, Ben Younger, in his writing and directorial debut, adds very little to the filmic pantheon in his own voice. Even the film's most prolific statement on the American obsession with getting rich, 'either you're slinging crack rock or you've got a wicked jump shot,' is a quote of the rap star Notorious B.I.G. The most admirable outcome of this film might be that it leads viewers to check out its two predecessors. I would urge the same as well.
Always be closing.