Boiler Room

Ben Younger’s directorial debut is the story of young, greedy stock brokers working on Long Island in an upstart, chop-shop, brokerage house. The story (and there is one!) centers on Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), a college drop-out who runs an illegal casino out of his apartment for the Queens College kids. Seth is recruited by an old friend into the JT Marlin brokerage.

More than a “live fast, live well” yuppie theme, there is a different angle to this story: the brokers we follow come from a shadier background than Wall Street financiers. The men of JT Marlin are high-finance hoodlums. Seth quietly makes this point when in narration at the beginning he quotes Notorious BIG: “you’re either selling crack rock or got a wicked jump shot.” These brokers want the quick route to fortune. Selling crack is an obvious metaphor. They hook their cutomers and sell them a worthless two-second high. In the process the brokers themselves become hooked and their moral direction is lost.

Despite his slightly-criminal past, Seth is immediately suspicious of the amount of money the brokers make from the high commissions the firm pays. Seth’s world, unlike his co-workers, has a moral axis in the form of his father, a judge. Their relationship provides the catalyst for Seth’s suspicion. Ultimately though, Seth’s moral tangle will develop into a legal one.

The story is completely engaging. Seth’s moral struggle is not sappy. He’s never rescued by the Hollywood fairy of cool characters. (And Giovanni Ribisi is rock-star cool.)

The cast of young actors capture the greed and energy of a new generation of short-attention-span stock brokers. And thankfully, Ben Affleck’s role is more a cameo than the star the trailers would have you believe.

The camera never distracts from the story but nicely highlights the insane brokerage house atmosphere with a blue tint to look like an investment commercial.

And the soundtrack is superb. Hip-hop a la De La Soul gives the movie an urban rhythm to match the brokers’ lifestyle.