Friday, August 20, 2010

Thirteen Years after Wall Street comes Boiler Room

If you liked Oliver Stone's drama about high stakes stockbrokers in New York, Wall Street (1987), you need to check out Boiler Room (2000). The two are so similar that the characters in Boiler Room actually quote Wall Street word for word in one scene as they watch the film at the home of one of the brokers. They are similar, but yet different enough that I would recommend both.

Boiler Room stars Giovanni Ribisi as Seth Davis, a college dropout who runs a casino out of his home. His dad, played by Ron Rifkin, is a judge and he just wants his son to get a decent, honest job. The relationship between Seth and his dad is similar to that between Charlie Sheen and his father in Wall Street (played by Martin Sheen). Both sons yearn to please their fathers. In Wall Street, Bud Fox was taken under the wing of Gordon Gekko, and Gekko gave him the respect his father had not. The elder Sheen was concerned about the bad influence Gekko had on his son. It was the same with Boiler Room since Seth's dad was dubious about this firm where people were making obscene amounts of money.

One night a broker stops by Seth's casino to gamble and Seth is impressed with his Ferrari, and he learns he works for a firm called J.T. Marlin (the name is similar to prestigious firm J.P. Morgan). The firm has an office on Long Island, NY and Seth gets a job as a trainee broker. Others in the office are played by Vin Diesel, Nicky Katt and Jamie Kennedy. In an obvious nod to Alec Baldwin's character in David Mamet's ode to the world of salespeople, Glengarry Glen Ross, Ben Affleck plays the tough as nails head of the brokerage house who wants his employees to sell by any means necessary, if they want to keep their jobs. The secretary at the firm is played by Nia Long, and like Wall Street, there is a love triangle. In Boiler Room it is between Seth, the secretary, and one of Seth's supervisors. In Wall Street the love triangle was between Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah and Michael Douglas.

The longer he works there Seth begins to wonder why no one has heard of this firm, why they are on Long Island and not in Manhattan, and how they can possibly pay brokers more commissions than any other firm. Seth is making a lot of money, but still he has mixed feelings about the morality of what he is doing. "Greed is good" could be the tagline for Boiler Room just like it was with Wall Street.

***Spoilers below***

Seth is investigated by the FBI and he finds out that J.T. Marlin is nothing but a house of cards and an illegal con game, or a boiler room. In exchange for his freedom he blows the whistle and tells the FBI about the firm. He copies his files from work onto a disk he will give to federal agents. Seth leaves the office just before federal agents raid it, and he tips off Vin Diesel's character to get out as well. An alternate ending has a former client of Seth's, Harry Reynard, showing up at J.T. Marlin with a gun to get his revenge. Harry had lost his life savings through investing in the firm's shoddy investment schemes.
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