‘Billionaire Boys Club’ review: Diminishing returns
James Cox’s Billionaire Boys Club tells the true story of Joe Hunt’s quick rise to fame and fortune and his even quicker fall.
This isn’t exactly the first time his story has become the subject of a film. In 1987, a similarly titled miniseries directed by Marvin Chomsky tackled the same events.
Cox’s take, however, feels like it is made for the present, in an age where people are rushing to become rich, lapping whatever scheme, whether it be crypto-currencies or other complex financial instruments, as long as the profits are fast and plenty.
There really isn’t the much of a gamble for Cox to take.
The story is intriguing, involving ambitions that go awry, taking deep turns into territories that explore the extent men will take for the love of money. There is a social aspect too. Cox’s struggle with keeping up with the lifestyles he has exposed himself too which prods him to imbibe unmitigated greed is part and parcel of American life and has remained unchanged up to the present.
Definitely, Cox packs everything into his version of the story.
Sadly and strangely, his take of the story, which he embellishes with both rising stars and an ample performance by Kevin Spacey, doesn’t really amount to anything enticing, inspiring or exciting. It is eager but is weirdly tepid. It lacks a certain energy to go for the lofty themes it aims for. It starts out promising but ends up being a work of diminishing returns, where every step it takes towards its predictable outcome results in further limpness and confusion in motive.
In fact, the best thing about the film is Kevin Spacey, whose portrayal of conman Ron Levin is the only thing that has some color and distinction. Everything else feels derivative and lacking. Ansel Elgort, who plays Hunt, is simply lackluster and bland, absent of any of the nuance that could have elevated the character. Taron Egerton, playing Hunt’s partner Dean Karny and is also the film’s dubious narrator, similarly delivers a vapid performance.
Charisma and good looks
Cox is clearly relying on charisma and good looks to carry his film.
It focuses on both the power and recklessness of youth. Yet Billionaire Boys Club is stilted, closely devoid of the vibrancy and verve to make it work. It has all the ingredients but everything is half-baked. It is riddled with so many distractions.
There are hints of romance but it only diverts the film from its darker directions. Cox has a trouble in concentrating his ideas. The result is something sorely lacking in focus that none of its aims are fulfilled.
It almost feels like Cox is exerting too much effort for the film to feel current despite being set in the '80s.
This obviously backfires as the film is riddled with dissonance. Billionaire Boys Club certainly looks the part, with its visual design clearly aimed to show California from decades back, complete with even a sudden appearance of a flirty Andy Warhol consorting with Levin.
However, the look is wildly inconsistent with everything else. The narration is odd and out of place, putting the events under a dubiously sentimental perspective.
Billionaire Boys Club is just mediocre fare.
It translates a true-to-life story that has all the elements to make a thrilling indictment of America’s vices into a humdrum downer. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema