All posts by One Guys Opinion

Dr. Frank Swietek is Associate Professor of History at the University of Dallas, where he is regarded as a particularly tough grader. He has been the film critic of the University News since 1988, and has discussed movies on air at KRLD-AM (Dallas) and KOMO-AM (Seattle). He is also the Founding President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics' Association, a group of print and broadcast journalists covering film in the Metroplex area, and was a charter member of the Society of Texas Film Critics. Dr. Swietek is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). He was instrumental in the creation of the Lone Star Awards, which, through the efforts of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Film Commission, give recognition annually to the best feature films and television programs produced in Texas.

BOILER ROOM






There’s an earnest, TV-movie quality about Ben Younger’s drama
concerning tele-brokers in a fly-by-night Wall Street firm
during the greed-filled 1990s. Giovanni Ribisi plays the
protagonist, Seth Davis, a driven young fellow (he’s already
set up a casino in his home!) who’s brought into the J.T.
Marlin company by old friend Greg (Nicky Katt). He puts his
considerable talents to work pushing worthless stock to
hapless customers under the tutelage of both Greg and his
more earthy competitor (Vin Diesel), while gradually coming to
realize the extent of the scam being run by higher-ups Michael
(Tom Everett Scott) and Jim (Ben Affleck). After confiding
his increasing misgivings to secretary Abby (Nia Long), he’s
eventually drawn into a SEC investigation of Marlin during
which his rigid, straightlaced father (Ron Rifkin) becomes
unhappily implicated.

Clearly Younger intends “Boiler Room” to be both a cautionary
tale about modern Wall Street shenanigans and the story of a
young man who finds redemption in a difficult moral situation;
but the result is too derivative (with numerous echoes of
“Wall Street” and “Glengarry Glen Ross”) and too obvious (the
final-act reconciliation between son and father, with the
former finally gaining the latter’s respect, is psychologically
thin) to wind up as more than marginally interesting. An
intercutting story about one of Seth’s clients, a woebegone
fellow named Harry (Taylor Nichols) whose deteriorating family
life we’re periodically shown (and whom the young broker
eventually takes pity upon), is especially weak; presumably
the character is suppposed to stand for all the hapless suckers
ruined by the firm’s underhanded practices, but he’s just too
melodramatic a contrivance to generate much sympathy.

Still, there are plusses here. Ribisi does an energetic turn
as the conflicted hero, and his interracial romance with Long
has a nicely understated quality. Diesel is powerful as the
bulldog-like Chris, and Affleck has some winning moments as
the firm’s drill sergeant; his riffs may be closely patterned
after Alec Baldwin’s cameo in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but he
pulls them off with surprising aplomb.

Ultimately, though, “Boiler Room” has a cut-rate feel to it,
rather like the company whose workings it portrays.

REAR WINDOW

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There’s no need for anybody to go on at length about the
absolute brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller, which
represented the first stunning cinematic statement about the
effects of the kind of modern voyeurism associated with film
itself (Michael Powell’s later “Peeping Tom” is another
example). The story of the photographer (James Stewart), laid
up with a broken leg, who comes to suspect that one of the
neighbors (Raymond Burr) he’s been watching during his
confinement is a murderer, and who gradually entices his fiance
(Grace Kelly), nurse (Thelma Ritter) and police-detective buddy
(Wendell Corey) to become involved in his ever-more-obsessive
search for the truth, remains every bit as remarkable as it was
nearly half a century ago.

Now, however, you have the chance to experience the picture in
a wonderful new reconstruction by Robert A. Harris and James
C. Katz, who did a similar job on “Vertigo” several years back.
The result, with its luscious colors, is visually entrancing,
and the soundtrack has been digitally enhanced too, so that
Franz Waxman’s jazzy score makes an immediate impact. With its
great script by John Michael Hayes (based on the fine story by
Cornell Woolrich), its first-rate cast (Thelma Ritter’s machine-
gun delivery still works beautifully) and the director’s
unsurpassed gift for generating tension and suspense, “Rear
Window” remains a winner all the way, an absolute joy for all
its 112 minutes. (The Paramount logo is kept at the beginning
and end, by the way, even though the reissue has been financed
by Universal.)

This time around, take special pleasure in watching how
Hitchcock tells much of the story through camera movement
alone, exhibiting a fluidity which virtual no modern filmmaker,
even with all today’s technical improvements, can even begin
to match. And, especially in terms of the protagonist’s
obsessive behavior (marvelously catch by Stewart), savor the
thematic connections the picture has with the later “Vertigo.”

“Rear Window” is one of those classic pieces of cinematic
perfection in which new sources of amazement arise with each
repeated viewing. And this glowing reconstruction allows one
to savor it all the more. Don’t miss the opportunity of seeing
it on the big screen; the film is just too emotionally large
for a TV-sized image.