Ben Younger's Boiler Room is set at the corner of Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross--a morality tale about the stock market in which the protagonists are a school of shark pups who would gladly bite off their grandmother's head to close a deal. Giovanni Ribisi is Seth, a judge's son who keeps winding up on the wrong side of the law, most recently as a trainee at J.T. Marlin, a "chop shop" brokerage located a good hour from the financial district, right off Exit 53 on the Long Island Expressway. Marlin's brokers serve up seven-course meals of worthless stock and hot air, then leave their investors holding the checks. And Seth, who's been running a 24-hour-a-day casino out of his apartment, sees the place as his ticket to ride...in a Ferrari. In other words, he wants to be a millionaire. Of course, who doesn't? But most of us would prefer to have it handed to us by Regis Philbin rather than have to make 600 phone calls a day--lying, cheating and stealing our way into the hearts of the suckers born every minute. Boiler Room is at its best when it sticks close to the eponymous trading area, a nondescript office in a nondescript office building where phrases like "Telling's Not Selling" and "Don't Pitch the Bitch" (i.e., keep the investor's wife out of the loop) are repeated like mantras. It's at its worst when it tries to patch things up between Seth and his dad (Ron Rifkin), a plot development lifted straight from Wall Street, where the dad had a formidable opponent, one Gordon Gekko.
Boiler Room could use a Gordon Gekko. Instead, it has Nicky Katt's Greg, who takes Seth under his wing and tries to crush him with it. Katt's highly effective, but there's not an ounce of warmth in Greg, and he's so small fry next to Gekko that he seems like a joke. Maybe that's the point. The stock jocks in Boiler Room didn't go to Ivy League schools, and they're not going to wind up at Goldman Sachs. They're bottom-feeders, glorified telemarketers. And so when Ben Affleck shows up to give a pep talk à la Alec Baldwin in Glengarry, it seems both pathetic and appropriate that he lacks what Baldwin's character referred to as his big brass balls. Boiler Room owes an incalculable debt to Oliver Stone and David Mamet, but at least it covers the interest payments.