Nearly all of the characters in writer-director Ben Younger's accomplished debut are testosterone-pumped males ruled by the almighty dollar. They're twentysomething up-and-comers at a Long Island brokerage firm who view one another as frat brothers and the stock market as a contact sport.
These anti-heroes act their age, spending bucks on Ferraris, entertainment centers and unfurnished mansions. They can recite every line of "Wall Street" by heart and are thoroughly familiar with the code of "Glengarry Glen Ross" -- "always be closing." They're also 1990s hipsters who wear Italian suits and fashion their lifestyle after the Hollywood cats of "Swingers."
The latest addition to their firm is Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), an enterprising college dropout who runs a successful card-game operation out of his house. Seth's a bit smarter than the rest of his brash co-workers. He quickly moves to the top of his trainee class, earning the affection of the office receptionist and almost winning the respect of his hard-to-impress dad.
The only problem Seth has is a conscience. As good as he is at draining a poor guy on his family's entire savings, he finds it hard to embrace fellow buddy Chris Varick's (Vin Diesel) philosophy of just going along for the ride. He looks into the stocks he's selling for employer Michael (Tom Everett Scott) and discovers that they're worth far less than the market value of his sales pitch.
The rest of the movie deals with Seth's ability or inability to do the right thing. However, that focus isn't as compelling as the details of the "boiler rooms," where Gordon Gekko ranks higher than Bill Gates.
Younger, who once interviewed for a boiler room and spent two years researching the subject, nails the lingo of these guys with wit and bravado. From senior trader Jim's (Ben Affleck) hilarious "pikers" speech to broker Gregg's (Nicky Katt) "don't pitch the bitch" lesson, the script successfully picks up where "Wall Street" left off.
A talented cast makes the most of their dialogue. The standouts are Diesel as the stock market's equivalent of an inside linebacker and Affleck, whose role is comparable to Alec Baldwin's cameo in "Glengarry Glen Ross." Also providing effective support are Katt as an envious stockbroker and Everett Scott as the elusive brains behind the firm's operations.
As the lead player, Ribisi is quite capable, although he's hampered by his own storyline. A sequence involving his father and the authorities feels forced, and some of Ribisi's emotional reactions are more mannered than convincing.
"Boiler Room" is a good, if not great, movie about the lives of a particular group of males whose only ambition is money. It's not a new theme in movies, but here, it's provided from the perspective of young men who've grown up on attitude, irony, hip-hop and movies.
* MPAA Rated: R for strong language and some drug content.
Giovanni Ribisi: Seth
Vin Diesel: Chris
Nia Long: Abby
Nicky Katt: Greg
Scott Caan: Richie
Ron Rifkin: Seth's Father
Ben Affleck: Jim Young
A New Line Cinema presentation of a Team Todd production. Director and Screenplay Ben Younger. Producers Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd. Executive Producers Claire Rudnick Polstein and Richard Brener. Cinematographer Enrique Chediak. Production Designer Anne Stuhler. Editor Chris Peppe. Music The Angel. Music Supervisor Dana Sano. Costume Designer Julia Caston. Running Time: 2 hours.