A young man joins a firm of crooked stockbrokers and becomes a super-salesman, but comes to question the values of his co-workers.
College drop-out Seth (Ribisi) is signed up by a fast-moving firm of off-Wall Street stockbrokers whose recruitment guy (Affleck) promises joinees they will be millionaires before their mid-20s. Seth discovers an aptitude for high-pressure phone marketing, cops off with a gorgeous secretary (Long), notices sharp practices and irregularities, and becomes disturbed by the casual verbal (and sometimes physical) brutality of brokers in the "boiler room".
Writer-director Ben Younger's debut feature is open about where its stolen ideas are from: during indoctrination, Seth is deluged with quotations from Glengarry Glen Ross and the twentysomething stock jocks enjoy reciting dialogue along with Michael Douglas in Wall Street. Set at a different end of the business than Wall Street, rooking small investors rather than raping companies, Boiler Room is on the Stone model, with the impressive Ron Rifkin as the remote but loving patriarch our hero is hung up on, and canny performances from odious Nicky Katt and hulking Vin Diesel as the broker equivalents of the rival sergeants from Platoon.
Up front, Seth admits phone-marketing worthless shares is "the white boy equivalent of slinging crack rock", and Younger treats this story of guys in suits with phones as if it were a Hughes Brothers film about gunz and drugz in the hood. The brokers (their youth thrown into sharp relief by office "senior citizen" Ben Affleck) spout sexism ("Never pitch the bitch"), racism and homophobia, but adopt black slang and hang out with each other rather than have sex lives, fetishing only money and "the pitch".
With rap music, scratch cuts, sudden explosions from ticking bomb characters, verbal and physical strutting and a heavy dose of morality, it's a super-charged, intensely-played picture which will edge most of its cast up the ladder.