As might be expected, Boiler Room, a stock-market drama and the first feature from writer-director Ben Younger, has drawn comparisons to Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street: Both deal with the shadier aspects of trading and both are the products of a soaring economy in which everyone seems capable of striking it rich. Younger's film invites the comparisons, then dismisses them. Like Wesley Snipes' crew in New Jack City did with Scarface (scripted, perhaps not coincidentally, by Stone), the characters in Boiler Room unwind by watching Wall Street. The film's ethical issues seem beyond them, however: They're content simply to take turns quoting Michael Douglas' satanically manipulative villain line for line. This is a new breed who, unlike Charlie Sheen's character in Wall Street, seem to have no scruples to lose, content to make fast money faster than it's ever been made before, ethics and clients be damned. Into this world enters Giovanni Ribisi, a college dropout whose income comes from running a professional-quality casino out of his apartment. Pressured by his federal-judge father (Ron Rifkin) to pursue a better career, Ribisi follows the suggestion of a high-rolling customer (Nicky Katt) and joins a Long Island brokerage house, making cold calls to potential investors looking to make a quick killing. Two things trouble Ribisi: the troubling aspects of his job and the fact that he's good at it. Younger pushes his broker-as-gangsta metaphor as far as it will go—pretty far, as it turns out—and his portrayal of a world driven by cash, power, and fleeting pleasures is electric, nicely embodied by a supporting cast that includes Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Katt, and Tom Everett Scott. It's all the more disappointing, then, when it starts to unravel toward the end, anchored by subplots that don't quite pay off and a climax that's far less thrilling than the events preceding it. But, though it might be unintentional, the anticlimax of Younger's otherwise auspicious debut only reinforces the creepily seductive power of the world his film establishes, one in which naked ambition and instant gratification keep humanity in check.
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