Grade: C+

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.