A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Boiler Room" tells the story of a 19-year-old named Seth who makes a nice income running an illegal casino in his apartment. His dad, a judge, finds out about it and raises holy hell. So the kid gets a daytime job as a broker with a Long Island, N.Y., bucket shop that sells worthless or dubious stock with high-pressure telephone tactics. When he was running his casino, Seth muses, at least he was providing a product that his customers wanted.
The movie is the writing and directing debut of Ben Younger, a 29-year-old who says he interviewed a lot of brokers while writing the screenplay. I believe him. The movie hums with authenticity, and knows a lot about the cultlike power of a company that promises to turn its trainees into millionaires, and certainly turns them into efficient phone salesmen.
No experience is necessary at J.T. Marlin: "We don't hire brokers here--we train new ones," snarls Jim (Ben Affleck), already a millionaire, who gives new recruits a hard-edged introductory lecture crammed with obscenities and challenges to their manhood. "Did you see `Glengarry Glen Ross'?" he asks them. He certainly has. Mamet's portrait of high-pressure real estate salesmen is like a bible in this culture, and a guy like Jim doesn't see the message, only the style. (Younger himself observes that Jim, giving his savage pep talks, not only learned his style from Alec Baldwin's scenes in "Glengarry" but wants to be Baldwin.) The film's narrator is Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), an unprepossessing young man with a bad suit who learns in a short time to separate suckers from their money with telephone fantasies about hot stocks and IPOs. Everybody wants to be a millionaire right now, he observes. Ironically, the dream of wealth he's selling with his cold calls is the same one J.T. Marlin is selling him.
In the phone war room with Seth are several other brokers, including the successful Chris (Vin Diesel) and Greg (Nicky Katt), who exchange anti-Jewish and Italian slurs almost as if it's expected of them. At night the guys go out, get drunk and sometimes get in fights with brokers from other houses. The kids gambling in Seth's apartment were better behaved. We observe that both gamblers and stockbrokers bet their money on a future outcome, but as a gambler you pay the house nut, while as a broker you collect the house nut. Professional gamblers claim they do not depend on luck but on an understanding of the odds and prudent money management. Investors believe much the same thing. Of course, nobody ever claims luck has nothing to do with it unless luck has something to do with it.