'Boiler Room' embodies fierce American hunger for wealth
"Boiler Room" has taken this country's ferocious obsession with quickly acquired wealth and the raging bull that is the stock market, and created a contemporary perversion of the American dream.
The oh-so-talented Giovanni Ribisi plays the film's hero, Seth Davis, with an appropriate balance of arrogance and sympathy. He is the prototypical yuppie rebel: young, smart, white and hungry for money, updated for a modern audience.
He embodies the greed of the 80s combined with the techno-chic attitude of the later 90s.
When we first see Seth, he has dropped out of college and is running an illegal casino from his home.
As a means of gaining his father's (Ron Rifkin) respect, Seth joins the brokerage firm of J.T. Marlin - which he soon discovers is not the haven of integrity he thought it would be.
Newcomer writer-director Ben Younger smartly juxtaposes the illicit casino operation with the socially-sanctioned firm - drawing interesting conclusions about which is the bigger evil to society.
He illustrates how a society dominated by market forces corrupts the ideals of the American dream.
The firm is presented as a misogynistic fraternity of young, white males all in it for the quick buck - disregarding anyone they made need to take advantage of.
Without becoming overly sentimental, Younger puts a face on the firm's routine victimization of unsuspecting Americans - a kind of financial rape.
And rape is not too strong a word, for Younger depicts the yuppies as ruthlessly predatory, where Seth and secretary Abby (Nia Long) are the sole voices of compassion - a similarity that forges their chemistry-packed romance.
The brokers at J.T. Marlin drive Ferraris, live in opulent and unfurnished mansions and wear expensive Italian suits.
They represent a modern culture where immature youth - 20-year-old Internet millionaires and 14-year-olds with recording contracts - has more money than Third World countries and no idea what to do with it.
They lack direction and empathy because of a society that has sold to get in on the ground floor or miss out.
They watch Wall Street ad nauseum and play the part of the noveau riche.
But they are really lost little boys who don't know what they are doing. It is all image and no substance, vain and empty wealth.
At one point, they go to a gay bar in New York City and don't even realize it. Oblivious and vain, they see only the money.
It is all image, and Younger knows that by the film's end they must be revealed for who they are.
But he manages to do more than that.
Just as the stock market continues to soar with seemingly no end in sight, one day it all must come crashing down.
Younger deftly structures his film after this model - building a rising tension and energy until . Black Tuesday, Great Depression, the end of the party.
Only Seth's integrity and his wounded relationship with his father are salvaged, representing the triumph of values and family in the face of a stock market wasteland.
"Boiler Room," Younger's own initial public offering, is definitely more than just hype.