These are gamblers without souls, salesmen without scruples.

BOILER ROOM

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


With perfect timing and great skill, Ben Younger has written and directed a metaphor for the ugly culture we inhabit. His salesmen help themselves to the savings of vulnerable people by selling them bogus stocks. There is no guilt in this Boiler Room.

The fortunes these hustlers envy were created by young Silicon Valley visionaries whose efforts have changed the world. The success of the tech company founders is blinding, and their rewards have changed the expectations people have of themselves. The eyeballs of the general population are rolling. Ordinary people are trying to get some of that stuff for themselves, usually in some wacky or derivative form that either fails or succeeds miraculously and immediately.

Every new culture harbors rodents that can conceive only of operating on the dark side of any entrepreneurial boom. These are the staffers of the boiler room, a pressure-cooker of a manned bank of telephones, where they sell fraudulent stocks and ruins people's lives.

New workers are hired and trained in herds, and they believe Jim Young's (Ben Affleck) promise that they will be millionaires by the end of their first working year. They will abandon any other lives they may have and spend 24/7 in the boiler room scamming potential customers by telephone.

It's fair to wonder whether there really are people who will accept a phone call from an aggressive stranger offering unfamiliar stocks. Figures show the answer is yes, and the boiler-room boys quickly become artists at discovering the weak spot of the man on the other end of the line. A doctor is intrigued by stock of a company with a cure for cancer: a man struggling to save the down payment for a new family house can't resist the possibility of quick money that would make him a hero to his wife.

Seth (Giovanni Ribisi), drop-out son of a federal judge, has been rejected by his father for running an illegal casino operation in his Queens apartment. As an appeasing move, he goes to work for J.T. Marlin, chop-shop, where he quickly proves himself to be the sham firm's smartest recruit. With a quick tongue and the lingo of the trade, Seth cons people into buying stocks that will go bad. His descent into lying, cheating, and stealing is complete. Along the way he begins to discover exactly how the boss is paying such high commissions. As Seth, Giovanni Ribisi is entirely believable as an enthusiastic con with a seed of redemption. Ron Rifkin, after a stiff beginning, gives a mighty, yet restrained, performance as Seth's father. Late in the movie, Rifkin and Ribisi stun us with a powerfully acted scene that removes all need for a cliched rapprochement.

This is the Glengarry Glen Ross of the stock-market world, just as unpleasant, just as real. These are gamblers without souls, salesmen without scruples. For them, the lure of gold makes strangling a person with his own vulnerability into an appealing game.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : New Line Cinema
Rating : R
Running time : 1h50m


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