Friends of mine had occasionally praised the merits of Boiler Room long before The Wolf of Wall Street had become a cinematic reality. While the films share similar backdrops, their story appears to be told at two different levels, one as the ground level of a broker, the other an owner, but both in stock brokerage firms. They also appear to have similar messages in the sense that the prospective buyer is the sucker to a certain degree. But while Wolf is slicker and helmed by one of film's true talents, Boiler Room has the same type of feel at a more heartfelt level.
Boiler Room is written and directed by Ben Younger (Prime), who used his own experience of interviewing at a brokerage firm as inspiration for this story. Seth (Giovanni Ribisi, Avatar) is a college dropout who is running an unlicensed casino from his New York apartment when his old friend Adam (Jamie Kennedy, Malibu's Most Wanted) and his co-worker Greg (Nicky Katt, The Limey) visit the casino. Seth is intrigued about what Adam and Greg do and eventually Greg woos Seth to an interview at the brokerage where Adam and Greg work. There he runs into the film's co-owner who promises millions, but a truckload of work will be put into doing so. Seth buys in, if nothing else to earn the respect and admiration of his Dad Marty (Ron Rifkin, L.A. Confidential), who is a judge. As Seth learns, the firm is what is called a "chop stock" house, manufacturing demand in junk stocks that give them money from commissions and leave their customers high and dry. How he deals with it is the interesting part.
Boiler Room seemed to be also noted at the time for its number of fresh, young faces that appear in it. Vin Diesel (Fast Five) and Scott Caan (Ocean's Eleven) appear as senior executives in the firm, and Ben Affleck (Argo) enjoys a few scenes as one of the firm's co-owners, spouting dialogue lines as if he channels Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. In fact, many members of the firm watch Wall Street in front of a TV, quoting lines and psyching themselves up in a sense, similar to what Army soldiers might do with Apocalypse Now. One can even sense Seth's evolution from Bud Fox into Gordon Gekko as Boiler Room goes on.
With the wave of Occupy-inspired films dramatic and otherwise over the last couple of years, it is personally somewhat difficult to try and evaluate Boiler Room on what merits it may have, relative to other films that have come out since. To be fair, that this film showed us the winks and the nods that some brokerages were doing almost a decade ahead of the mainstream catching up to it is a testament to Younger's experience, and the dialogue with which the actors get to use is fascinating to watch in its comfort and its execution, and excellent for a first-time work.
But if there was a complaint for me about Boiler Room is that it tends to almost be too comfortable and a touch full of aspirations. The film has minor problems with pacing, and Ribisi's performance shows little depth or notable resonance for a character that has to carry much of the story. The scenes with him and Rifkin are downright painful at times. Heck, the relationship with Seth and Abbie (Nia Long, Friday), the firm's main receptionist, are forced and lack any sort of substance. Katt is good, as is Diesel, but they serve as reminders that Ribisi just is not cut out for this character.
I did like seeing Boiler Room regardless. It checked off a box of sorts for me and I generally enjoyed it. Whether or not it was perhaps a deification of the film in my mind or other more polished products released since then, to me it stands as simply a decent film with some creakiness to it. If nothing else, seeing warmly received catalog titles hitting Blu-ray to be experienced (or re-experienced as the case may be) is a very nice thing.
Warner presents Boiler Room with an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, with the overall results being decent. Film grain is present through much of the viewing experience, and the color palette of the film, whether it is the drab grays of the office or the yellow in Greg's Ferrari, are reproduced nicely. Black levels are consistent as well, a nice surprise for how much of it we see during the film. I have not seen the standard definition disc, but would have to presume the visual quality of this Blu-ray is a step up and perhaps worth upgrading for hardcore fans.
The DTS HD Master Audio track is a 7.1 surround one that was an initial surprise, but when you listen to it you realize how active it is. The score in the film is urban and very bass-heavy, thus the subwoofer gets a bit of a workout. Dialogue is consistent for much of the film though it does tend to be on the weak side of things, and the soundtrack lacks a lot of dynamic range or directional effects/channel panning. But for what Boiler Room does sonically, it handles the load well and without complaint.
It looks like most everything from the standard definition release has been ported over here, with the exception of the isolated score track (with commentary) and the DVD-ROM extras. The other commentary with Younger, producer Jennifer Todd and composer The Angel is here. It is a decent track with a fair amount of production recollection by Younger, and Ribisi discusses his origins and thoughts on the production and those he worked with. It is a decent track though not altogether mind-blowing. Next are five deleted scenes (8:35), one of which being the film's original ending that was interesting and a little bit brave. The trailer (2:22) is the other extra to speak of.
Boiler Room is a pleasing film for the most part, though there are times where the viewer will find themselves checking their watch or shuffling in their chair because it does not keep you involved completely, and Ribisi does not help in things. Technically, the disc is not bad and from a bonus perspective is decent though incomplete. For those who have not seen the film, it is a solid rental, but the lack of a jaw dropping transfer and dropping of a couple of extras is a shaky decision on double-dipping.