Boiler Room

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By Mark Ramsey | 2000/02/19

Did you hear that film critic Rex Reed was arrested for allegedly shoplifting three CD’s from Tower Records? That’s right. They were by artists Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, and Carmen McRae (which I believe is an opera by Bizet).

Frankly, I endorse shoplifting these particular items, since the humiliation of purchasing them would be unbearable! Why bother with CD’s, Rex, when 78′s work better on your Edison phonograph?

Rex, who’s evidently lost somewhere in the murky vapor trail of pop culture, responds that it’s all a misunderstanding, and he intends to appeal the charges to Mayor LaGuardia and President Roosevelt.

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New in the Cineplex this weekend: It’s Boiler Room. You know Hollywood’s Golden Age is dead and gone when the phrase “a Giovanni Ribisi vehicle” is a studio movie’s major selling point. You don’t know Gio? Then you’re in the Meg Ryan line this weekend, aren’t you?

Actually, Gio, who’s best known from Saving Private Ryan, is a great young actor and a pleasure to watch. Early on, he quotes Notorious B.I.G. who, notes Rex Reed, once crooned with Glenn Miller before his short-lived radio program with Bing Crosby, called “A Not Entirely White Christmas.”

To please his dad, Gio gets a gig in a low-rent brokerage house selling stock in companies that don’t exist to suckers like you and me.

Not since the musical 1776 have there been so few babes in a movie, but at least 1776 featured dudes with girly hair. This Billionaire Boys Club is boys-only. And specifically, only boys who could otherwise double for Ben Stiller. Yes, there’s a high SSI count here; that’s “Stillers per Square Inch.” Picture that Star Trek episode with all the Harry Mudd wives; now imagine they’re conjoined twins with Janeane Garofalo and you get the idea.

And a job in this Boiler Room is only for straight men, thank you very much. Does this imply gay brokers pitch better than they sell? Is this some concession to ultra-conservatives? Why is it that ultra-conservatives like to fancy there are no gay folks in Hollywood, anyway? Listen here, ultra-conservatives, take the gay folks out of Hollywood and you’ll be watching 500 channels of infomercials faster than you can say “which way to Rock Hudson’s pool party?”

boilerroom_underdesk.jpgBen Affleck, a.k.a. Ben Stiller #67, appears as the recruiter/trainer of the Boiler Room boys. If only Oscar had a category for “Best Supporting Stiller.”

Vin Diesel, another Saving Private Ryan alum, is the only marble-mouthed seller who breaks the Stiller-amic hold on this Boiler Room. Vin’s cold calls are (you guessed it!) diesel-powered and potent weapons of psychological warfare. He teaches Gio how to bilk house downpayments out of hapless working people on stocks designed to head south faster than Jenna Jameson.

My favorite scenes are the ones featuring the FBI agents. Why? Because the casting crew found guys so white and so geeky, it’s as if a team of news anchormen captured the J. Edgar Hoover building. Teased one: “An arrest for racketeering, right after accu-weather with meteorologist Captain Mike.”

There’s a cool Rap soundtrack in this movie. That’s at the request of investment firms “Salomon Homies,” “J. Master-P. Morgan,” and their partners in the Wall Street crib. It’s NWC: “Niggaz with Capital.”

The first half of Boiler Room kicks some major sand in the face of the usual crappy crop of February flicks. Too bad that sizzle cools to a slow simmer in hour two, and this fresh tale turns tail and morphs into just another melodrama mama.

And, from minute sixty-one on, this mama don’t dance.

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