Most of you certainly remember Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas’ unscrupulous character in Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama "Wall Street," one of the few Hollywood movies that tackled the inside of Wall Street and the stock market. Due to its inate nature, the stock market does not necessarily lend itself to grandiose visualizations in movies, albeit the field itself is undoubtedly home to the most nerve-wrecking drama you could possibly imagine. Now first-time director Ben Younger tackles the same subject matter. In the face of the increased popularity of stock trading in the general public and last year’s IPO frenzy this move makes perfect sense, as this increased exposure of the stock market also makes room for an improved playfield for sharks, who sink their teeth into unsuspecting victims. And exactly that is the story of "Boiler Room."
Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) is a young man who is trying to find his own identity and financial independence. As the son of a judge, he has been raised with high ethic values, and yet he opens an illegal back-alley casino in his own apartment. One day a friend shows up with one of his work-colleagues, and they offer Seth the opportunity to make a fortune by becoming a stock broker. The company they work for is an independent brokerage that doesn’t mingle much with the big names on Wall Street. Instead of hiring hot-shot Harvard graduates, this firm hires average young men and puts them through an internal training to become full-fledged stock brokers. With incentives that are unheard of in the industry, most of the young men make their first Million within three years and many of them have become multi-millionaires within a very short time.
Eagerly, Seth turns out to be one of their most promising talents and he flies through the training. Ruthless and relentless he sells everyone on the stock the firm offers its clients, until he realizes that none of the stocks he sells actually performs. Every phone call he places to his customers is a blatant lie, and yet, all the brokers in the firm make fortunes. He decides to find out where the money really comes from, only to be disillusioned by the truth of the matter, and thrown into a maelstrom of personal conflict.
"Boiler Room" is a modern film by modern filmmakers and it shows. Actually, you can hear it more than see. The infamous F-word can be found in practically EVERY single sentence uttered in the movie, making the language of the characters a joke. Every effort that is put into creating believable characters is immediately destroyed when they open their mouths. I certainly have no problem with cussing when it is appropriate, but this excessive barrage of verbal abuse is simply ridiculous and throws off the impression as if the portrayed generation has degraded to a class of morons with speech impediments - which I hope is not true.
Nonetheless, "Boiler Room" manages to pack a good story that is generally well told. Although it could certainly have been spiced up with some plot twists that make the story less predictable, I found myself intrigued to see the outcome. It was mostly a result of the side plot established between Seth and the poor guy whose entire existence he ruined, despite the fact that is featured only on the sidelines of the movie. However it is dramatic enough to look forward to the ultimate payoff - which sadly never came.
New Line Home Video’s DVD release of "Boiler Room" gives us a superb rendition of the movie. The transfer is absolutely clean and without any blemishes. Presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that maintains the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the presentation features an incredibly high level of detail. Younger uses a cold bluish color scheme for much of the movie and it is nicely reproduced on this DVD. Every subtle change in the hues has been perfectly captured and is brought back to the TV screen. In the daytime scenes, the film establishes a very natural looking, neutral color scheme that is also perfectly reproduced on this DVD. Shadow delineation is without flaws. The presentation features very deep blacks that are remarkable for their integrity. Never losing definition, never appearing over-emphasized, these blacks are bold and exactly in tune with the film’s overall look. Highlights are also well-balanced, giving the presentation a clear appearance that is very pleasing. The compression of the film has been handled very well, and as expected, you won’t find a hint of a compression artifact anywhere on this DVD. This is a reference quality DVD transfer and easily one of the best in the market!
"Boiler Room" features a phenomenally clear 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. As with all New Line DVDs, this track has been normalized and remixed for near-field listening, which gives most of their Dolby Digital tracks a very balanced and even quality that has been optimized for the best possible experience in your home theater. The track is very modern, which means it makes very good use of the possibilities a multi-channel format offers. It uses the discrete surround channels often and naturally. Due to the nature of the film, it is never a track that uses surrounds for effects purposes, but instead manages to create a bustling and natural atmosphere throughout, especially inside the Boiler Room, where all the brokers do their work. The chatter is coming in from all sides with different ambient inflections and spatial integration. Dialogues are also well integrated and always clear and understandable, free of distortion.
Personally I found the Hip-Hop music that accompanies the movie distracting and inappropriate - especially considering that neither the subject matter, nor the characters are of true urban nature. A well-orchestrated score would have helped to increase the drama and conflict of the movie, instead of pulling viewers out of the experience ever so often. Bad music or not, it is very well presented on the DVD however. Especially the bass extension of the track hammers the beats home pretty well. The music of the movie is also presented as an isolated score on this release with a commentary by composer "The Angel." Considering that there are real musical gems out there that have not received an isolated treatment, let away the opportunity to comment on them, to me this almost borders on a joke.
You can also find a commentary track that features director Ben Younger, actor Giovanni Ribisi, producer Jennifer Todd, and "The Angel." I found mostly Younger’s elaboration quite interesting, as he shares many of the experiences he made as a first-time director. The ideals he had, the passion, the hopes, the ups and the downs are nicely brought to light by him in an entertaining and interesting manner, that is colorfully complemented by the co-commentators as the film goes along.
The DVD also contains five deleted scenes, including an alternate ending to the movie, which I felt was even worse than the unsatisfactory ending the movie actually has. Some of the other scenes are interesting, although with most of them, it is obvious that they would have artificially stretched the story without adding much meaning.
Big bucks! Fast bucks! That’s the motto of "Boiler Room," a motto all too many of our society try to live up to. The unscrupulous practice of selling unsuspecting people onto something they don’t understand is the central theme of the movie, and it creates a powerful and unsettling commentary on the state of our society. When people are proud of exploiting others, without for a minute thinking about the consequences for those people, it sends a message home that is not easy to digest. This is where "Boiler Room" excels. The film may have its flaws, but it brings us a riveting story that is as modern and hip as online trading, all packed up in a spectacular DVD release from New Line Home Video.