I saw the trailer to this movie and thought to myself, “Oh, a “Wall Street” rip-off starring Ben Affleck. JUST WHAT I NEED.” Sometimes, though, lowered expectations can be their own reward.
Surprisingly, despite the presence Ben, there is actually minimal Affleckage to be had as Matt Damon’s other half is only there to do his best Alec Baldwin imitation (poorly) from “Glengary, Glenross”. The real star of the film is Giovanni Ribisi as Seth Davis and the actual story is about Seth’s rather poor selection of role models.
Seth is at a crossroads. Despite the pressure of his federal judge father’s (Ron Rifkin) withering disdain, the young man has dropped out of college and runs an illegal casino out of his apartment in Queens to pay the bills. Eventually, his father catches wind of the “business” and Seth catches hell.
One day, Seth’s old pal from the neighborhood, Adam (Jaime Kennedy) shows up in a slick suit with his friend Gred (Nicky Katt, reuniting with Ribisi from “Suburbia”). With fast cars and lots of cash, the pair entice Seth to come join their chop-shop stock brokerage run by Michæl Brantley (Tom Everett Scott) to train as a broker for junk stocks. At the firm, no one appears to be over 30, and all the senior brokers are millionaires. Too good to be true? Mmmmmmmmmm… could be.
In his first feature, writer/director Ben Younger is up to more than just ripping off David Mamet and Oliver Stone. He demonstrates much of what drives these guys is not just a drive for money, but for status and respect. At first glance, they seem like just a bunch of overgrown frat boys, but really, they’re close to a bunch of insecure high school boys. Seth makes ill-advised choices to gain his father’s respect, but the other brokers, who receive their withering disdain from brokers at real firms, are only playing at adulthood. They run around together like a street gang dressed like Italian gangsters. They listen to hip-hop and try to act all “street” while they live in large houses they don’t need with useless, expensive toys in place of actual furniture. They are the wild boys who try to bring Seth into their pack. Seth, at least, comprehends he has to grow up, and by the typical means of learning the painful lesson that there are repercussions for his actions.
Ribisi does a fine job opposite a typically goofy Jaime Kennedy, a typically sociopathic Scott Cann, and a surprisingly likeable Vin Diesel. Seth’s longing for paternal love is painful to watch. Too bad Ribisi can’t avoid occasionally flashing his “The Other Sister” smile.