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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 61.52)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 4 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Younger, JenniferTodd, The Angel
  • 11 Cast/crew biographies

Boiler Room

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 115 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

You know things have come full circle when a story concept goes from being fashionable to outdated and then back again. In 1987, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street became a massive hit, the film epitomising the ‘80s business credo that “greed is good”. That, of course, predated a rather large stock market crash, but for a while everyone was walking around chanting Gordon Gecko’s mantra as though it were the meaning of life itself.

Since then, films about stock market traders have been somewhat thin on the ground, and not just because the world of high finance is really about as interesting as a Saturday afternoon on a banana lounge at the local TAB. There was almost a sense of embarrassment on Hollywood’s part that they ever dared to espouse the stock exchange as a kind of legal drug-like nirvana for up-and-coming yuppies, and if anyone was going to tackle a dramatic movie about the subject again for a wide audience, it was going to have to be done with a healthy dose of cynicism.

First-time director Ben Younger was once a stand-up comedian, a legislative aide, a corporate video cameraman and a grip on music videos and feature films. No, really. At the age of 27, Younger draws from his own experience as a trainee in a brokerage’s “boiler room” (that was between all of the above and his newly-launched film career) for the script of this film, which while firmly grounded in reality is not averse to a bit of melodrama for dramatic effect.

Boiler Room tells the story of Seth Davis (Ribisi), who makes his living running an illegal casino and inwardly craves the respect of his father, a respected judge. So when Seth is offered the chance to become a trainee at a brokerage, he jumps at the opportunity, never stopping to consider that this particular brokerage bears a dodgy name (J.T. Marlin, no less), has a dodgy address (in Long Island, a long way from Wall Street) and has a dodgy boss (Affleck) who makes dodgy promises. But the allure of the holy dollar blinds him, and soon he’s on the fast track to wealth, status and success. Only one problem - J.T. Marlin may not be all that it initially appears to be.

For a debuting director, Younger shows a steady hand and a good grip of narrative in Boiler Room, taking care not to go over the heads of the audience with cryptic financial-speak without at least making an attempt to explain it. The dramatic action is fairly relentless, and the performances of the main cast are all first-rate - though Ribisi seems a little at sea in his role as Seth, which may or may not have been deliberate. Ben Affleck is terrific as the driven Jim Young, and he works especially hard at swearing as much as possible just so we know he (a) means, it, man, and (b) is no saint. The various trainees and brokers spend much of their time paying tribute to Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross, quoting lines from both at will and using the films as their brokerage bibles. It’s very amusing, and director Younger insists that this actually happens, proving once again that the stock market is very, very silly.

The main problem with Boiler Room is simply that none of these people are the least bit likeable. Now, that’s not unusual in serious dramatic cinema, but at the very least we should be able to admire the characters for being so spectacularly unlikeable; here, they all just seem like people who you’d throw eggs at if you saw them on the street. They walk around posturing and shouting, throwing attitude around as though it were verbal confetti at a mafia wedding. This makes Boiler Room a tough film to get into, but it does give the drama added bite, even if the ultimate resolution of the film is seriously unsatisfying.

  Video
Contract

Boiler Room is a New Line Cinema production, and true to that company’s usual form on DVD, the transfer here is superb. Rich colour and plenty of well-defined detail is on display throughout, and there’s generally nothing to fault here except for some occasional spots of aliasing. The feature is presented at its correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is, of course, 16:9 enhanced. Shadow detail is spot-on, though much of the film is fairly brightly lit and is photographed with little attempt at being visually adventurous.

  Audio
Contract

Not an especially exciting soundtrack in terms of the “wow” factor, the audio here is geared heavily towards the dialogue, and this makes perfect sense with a film where the characters never quite get around to shutting up. There’s minimal surround action for those who like to be immersed in audio chaos, but what there is sounds perfectly natural and atmospheric - and after all, those watching this film won’t be interested in audio fireworks.

Two audio tracks are provided: one in Dolby Digital 5.0, and one in 2.0 surround. Interestingly - and unusually - while the 5.0 track here suffers the pitch change common to speeded-up PAL transfers, the 2.0 and commentary tracks play back at the correct pitch, apparently having been time-compressed rather than merely sped up. Why this wasn’t done with the 5.0 track is unknown, but it’s worth pointing out that though the 2.0 track plays at the correct pitch, it seems to have lost some resolution in the higher frequencies; the 5.0 track has more “gloss” at the top end.

  Extras
Contract

There’s not an overwhelming set of extras on this disc, and what’s here is a mixed bag. Note that the Isolated Music Score track from the US DVD of this film is not included here; this is no tragedy for this reviewer, as The Angel’s hip-hop and R&B influenced score is not exactly the sort of thing that you’ll return to after the first time, but those keen on this films’ music should keep in mind the fact that the track is missing before they buy.

Audio Commentary: This track features Giovanni Ribisi and composer The Angel - obviously recorded in separate interviews without either of them watching the movie at the time - along with director Younger and one of the producers, Jennifer Todd, speaking together. Younger and Todd are watching the film while recording, though it takes a while to figure this out as they happily go off on philosophical tangents about the art of filmmaking in general and the putting together of Boiler Room in particular. In other words, they’re drop-dead boring. Ribisi, meanwhile, puts his foot in it right at the start by claiming that the film is a celebration of masculinity, something he apparently feels strongly about. Giovanni’s point is partly valid - there is, of course, nothing wrong with masculinity - but if his idea of masculinity is a bunch of hard-faced power junkies screaming at each other, getting blind drunk and making misogyny an art form, then maybe he should find a new social circle…!

Deleted Scenes: Four items here, including a sequence billed as the “original ending” - though if this was to be the film’s ending there would need to be some drastic re-editing of the last act to make it work. Nonetheless, it’s a much more satisfying conclusion to the film than what finally made it to the screen, and presumably we can once again blame the test-screening process for this. The other three deleted scenes are - like the alternate ending - of excellent technical quality, but are superfluous and tedious, and their removal was a wise decision. All are presented at 1.85:1 and are 16:9 enhanced.

Cast & Crew Biographies: Eleven brief but informative bios and filmographies of the principal cast members and writer/director Younger.

Domestic Trailer: “Domestic” here means “US”, and this trailer breaks new ground in giving away almost the entire plot of the film in capsule form, right down to the ending. Do NOT watch this until you’ve seen the film. This is offered at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is 16:9 enhanced and of excellent visual quality.

Animated Menus: Very apt, very stylish, and not too intrusive. A nice effort, with audio backing that’s very well executed on menu transitions.

Dolby Digital Aurora Trailer: Daggy, but it’s not the City trailer, which as always is a Good Thing.

  Overall  
Contract

Boiler Room is an obnoxious, arrogant film that also happens to be dramatically compelling, even though it doesn’t exactly leave the audience cheering for any of the characters. Well acted and competently directed, it’s a solid couple of hours’ entertainment that will make you think twice the next time someone calls you promising a world of instant cash. Roadshow’s DVD is nicely put together, and New Line’s transfer is of their usual high standard.


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      And I quote...
    "...a solid couple of hours’ entertainment that will make you think twice the next time someone calls you promising a world of instant cash."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          RealMagic Hollywood Plus
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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