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Film: Boiler Room

Boiler Room is a 2000 American drama film with themes of film noir, written and directed by Ben Younger, and starring Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott, Ron Rifkin and Jamie Kennedy.

The film takes a look at the world of "Boiler Room" (seedy, dishonorable, and often fraudulent) brokerage firms. The film centers on college dropout Seth Davis (Ribisi), a budding underground casino owner from Queens, New York, who gets a job at J.T. Marlin, a less-than-reputable brokerage firm. However at the time, Seth is totally unaware of the firm's criminal reputation. Davis' opposition to his disapproving father, a federal judge, drives the plot as Davis goes deeper into the operation at J.T. Marlin than he'd like, learning how the firm scams its clients. The company is a chop shop brokerage firm that runs a "pump and dump", using its brokers to create artificial demand in the stock of defunct companies by cold calling investors and selling them shares at prices set by the brokerage firm, which include a large commission to the brokers (up to three dollars a share for a penny stock). When the firm is done pumping the stock, the investors then have no one to sell their shares to in the market, and the price of the stock plummets.

This film was loosely inspired by the real-life criminality at the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm, which later inspired the less fictionalized Leonardo DiCaprio film The Wolf of Wall Street.

The DVD release includes an alternate ending that implies a workplace massacre by one of the cheated clients.


This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Michael, who's quite affable while running a criminal brokerage firm.
  • Artistic License - Law: At the end of the film, Seth browbeats Chris into signing a sell order for Harry Reynard so Reynard can make his money back. One BIG problem: all stock transactions have an SEC-mandated "settling" period of several days before the transaction becomes official. Since Seth knows the FBI is arriving within the hour and the FBI's first act upon arriving will be to freeze all transactions, the sell order would never go through in real life. It would be a completely meaningless gesture.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Inverted. Seth attempts to have coffee with Marty, but it's Marty (the father) who quickly gets annoyed and leaves.
  • Captain Ersatz: In-universe, J.T. Marlin has a similiar-sounding name to the much bigger and more reputable J.P. Morgan. Lampshaded when some J.P. Morgan brokers have a confrontation with Seth and his coworkers.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: All of them.
  • Dinner and a Show: When Marty starts yelling at Seth and throwing Seth's custom poker chips at him.
  • Family Honor: Marty is constantly worried that his son's illegal living-room casino will endanger his own career as a judge.
  • Heel Realization: Seth checks around and not only discovers the stock he's selling is bogus, but J.T. Marlin has lined up other office space to use if/when they're busted.
  • Jerk Ass: Greg, who is a prick to everyone who works for him but especially to Seth who is dating his old girlfriend Abby.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Greg explains to Seth that the firm never sells to women as they will constantly complain to and annoy the brokers over the stock's performance. Word of God (via the DVD commentary) states it's also because men are inherently bigger gamblers than women.
  • Meaningful Background Event: During the scene when Seth and Abby are talking in the car, you see the FBI agents pull up and start walking over (to arrest Seth) in the background quite a few minutes before it actually happens.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-Universe. There's a scene where the company guys are having a party and watching Gordon Gekko's introduction from Wall Street, being such big fans that they start quoting the entire thing verbatim. Gekko is in fact a very corrupt stockbroker who would throw thousands of people on the street for profit and ultimately goes to jail for committing legal fraud. This might be justified, since the Boiler Room guys are knowingly scam artists themselves who project an honest image to the outside world.
  • Moral Myopia: In the end, Seth convinces Chris to "do one thing right" and sign a ticket sale making one schmuck client good by stealing from another anonymous buyer on the market.
  • Nouveau Riche: When Seth visits Jim's uber-spendy Mansion, he finds it barely furnished, with a tanning bed filling the elegant dining room; Seth internally remarks that Jim obviously has no idea what to do with his expensive house.
  • Pet the Dog: During the group interview, a new recruit sits in Jim Young's seat. Young walks in and politely asks him to move. When another recruit calls the first one a dumbass, Young angrily orders the second guy out of the room, and offers his seat to the first guy.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Hey, Kid: GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Early in the film, Seth and the gang watch a scene from Wall Street, complete with Chris and Michael acting out the parts.
    • Later, Greg specifically references Glengarry Glen Ross when training Seth. Ben Affleck's introductory rant to the new trainees is also an obvious send-up to Alec Baldwin's One-Scene Wonder in that film as a foul-mouthed real estate salesman.
  • Vanity License Plate: Greg the douchebag has a license plate that says "2 RIP", referring to the high commissions that the Marlin brokers are getting on their lousy stock deals.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: The film revolves entirely around Seth going to work at a brokerage firm (which he later finds out is in fact an illegal operation) to earn enough money to impress his Supreme Court Judge father Marty. It actually endangers his father's career when the FBI's Financial Crimes unit catches wind of it.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Seth, when he goes to work for J.T. Marlin.


Bless the ChildFilms of 2000 - 2004 Bring It On

alternative title(s): Boiler Room
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