Friday, March 13, 2009

Boiler Room

I should have known I was going to dislike this movie* when the main character quoted Notorius B.I.G. in the opening minute.

*And yes, I realize I'm years late to the Boiler Room party. I also haven't seen Scarface. What are my qualifications again?

Nothing against, uh, Notorius? Mr. B.I.G.? Whatever. But yeah, nothing against the late hip-hop artist. It's just that the main character (played by Giovanni Ribisi) is whiter than a rural Kansas high school ... and when he quotes rap lyrics, he does it with zero irony* (unlike, say, Michael Bolton in Office Space).

*Not that music taste should be segregated by race or upbringing -- based on my own background I probably should be listening to Bob Dylan and The Beatles instead of Pantera and Every Time I Die -- but there's just something phony about a lame white dude reciting Biggie like the two used to sling rocks together back in Brooklyn.

That lack of irony -- that's the initial problem with Boiler Room, one of those oh-so-cool movies that ends up on a lot of college-age guys' best lists (often alongside Boondock Saints and other junk like that). It's easy to see why -- it's a macho white boy's wet dream of a film, a yarn about a New York kid whose tough upbringing (his father has quite the unenviable job -- he's a judge) leads him to drop out of school and run a casino out of his basement until he meets some young punk stock brokers (with almost zero appeal to anyone who ever tore a paper towel in half or drove a hatchback) and gets swept into their world.

Early on, that world is like a rendition of American Psycho's business card scene ... only with that aforementioned lack of humor. Yep -- Ferraris. Suits. Tough talk. Arrogance. (Including a sorry Ben Affleck-ed attempt at mimicking Alec Baldwin's incredible Glengarry Glen Ross speech.) It's pretty off-putting.

Oh, but wait! It's not like they actually promote this sort of thing completely, right? Sure, being a tough talker is fine. The money, the cars -- noble pursuits, unless you're doing something wrong to get them (and -- wouldn't ya know it -- Ribisi's new brokerage firm is).

So yes, late in the movie -- long after we've seen the boss vs. boss conflict, the boss + Ribisi + love interest triangle, and of course the Ribisi vs. father struggle (yawn, yawn and, yes, yawn) -- everything gets redeemed by, what else, a Big Moral Question. Does Ribisi stay on the dark side or choose good? Does the Bad Guy get his in the end? Do father and son finally make up? And will that buyer Ribisi screwed over get a chance to make his money back?

Gee. I wonder.

It's odd, the movies that catch the college/young guy crowd. The Big Lebowski -- The Film Official's personal favorite film of all time -- is on that list. A lot of other tremendous comedies, too. Reservoir Dogs. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Great stuff like that.

After (finally) seeing Boiler Room, I guess even college kids can't be smart all the time.

It's like B.I.G. used to say, although I'm not sure if it was before or after he was killed:

The weak or the strong
Who got it going on
You're dead wrong*

*I have no idea what this passage is supposed to mean, at least in the context of this blog. Looks good for blog cred, though. Right?

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