Film Review: Boiler Room

There is something about Boiler Room as a film that for reasons I cannot explain or fathom draws me randomly back to it at times when I don’t expect it. Last night was a perfect example of this. I didn’t really know what film I fancied watching, my mood was one of just passive ambivalence and so I headed into the rows and rows of DVDs looking for something to watch, working purely on the basis that something would catch my eye, something would just feel right, and without explanation, Boiler Room last night, was it.

Ever since I first saw Boiler Room more years ago than I can actually remember it has always had the ability to entertain me. As films go, it’s never going to be a stand out classic, it’s never going to be a defining point in the careers of it’s stars, but it’s a staple, it’s a filler movie that you can rely on to never let you down. However, it’s very much a masculine movie, it’s the type of film that as a single bloke stuck at home without anything new to watch, you can lose yourself in and not feel guilty but I certainly wouldn’t be suggesting it as a film for anybody wanting to cuddle up romantically to the one they love for a “quiet night in”

This film is very much the fusion cuisine of film making. It’s two ideas rammed together on the basis that it should, in theory, provide two sides to the story, two views on the world. There is, predominantly the alpha male, materialistic, arrogant world of JT Marlin in which you play by your rules. They are essentially, the warping of the American dream and the embodiment of the phrase that money is the root of all evil. And this is worked against the serious, conscious of the film. The need to do right, the need to question, to understand. If the chest thumping evil side of money is portrayed through the selling of illegal stocks then the good side, the argument that money can’t buy you happiness is brought into play through the relationship between Seth – Giovanni Ribisi – and his family.

This is director Ben Younger’s, first time in the top job having held a number of minor production roles previously, and he does admirably in my opinion and manages to create a film that has a maturity and style which shows a natural talent and skill beyond his limited experience. However, while the alpha male scenes bring the layers and ideas to life in a way that drags you in and makes you almost accept their actions and wish it could be you, the serious side to the debate unfolding in front of you doesn’t reach the same level.

The cinematic style used throughout the lavish portions of the film, the wide angled panning shots, the glossy lifestyles, the reduced dialogue, even the soundtrack tie together perfectly, but when the film wants to move onto higher ground things get tricky, as it attempts to accomplish this through speech and conversation and it suffers as a result. It’s the visual elements that draw and engage you with the film and when you take them away the results leave you feeling a little bit empty. It’s like having the perfect Kobe beef steak, cooked to the highest standard by the world’s best chef and then having it served with nothing but a lumpy mound of instant mash potato.

I had almost wished that they hadn’t bothered to really push the serious side of the film as far as they have, I almost wish that Seth’s family had never got involved, because while I enjoy Boiler Room, I just think that it, potentially, would have been better and stronger had they spent more time looking at Seth directly questioning the actions of those around him, while all the time being dragged into the pace and exhilaration of the lifestyle in production around him. It is certainly right play the two sides, the good and evil, off against each other, to ask the questions they do, but they used the wrong vehicle to do it full justice.

I’ve put Boiler Room back on the shelf again now, and it’ll no doubt sit there for the rest of the year gathering dust, but I guarantee that one day, without rhythm or reason, I will just simply pick it off, stick it on and be as entertained again as I was last night, even with its flaws. I just wish I had their money!

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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