Billionaire Boys Club
dir James Cox
scr James Cox, Captain Mauzner
prd Holly Wiersma, Cassian Elwes, Christopher Lemole
with Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Kevin Spacey, Emma Roberts, Jeremy Irvine, Ryan Rottman, Thomas Cocquerel, Bokeem Woodbine, Suki Waterhouse, Billie Lourd, Judd Nelson, Rosanna Arquette
release US 17.Aug.18
18/US 1h48
Billionaire Boys Club
Young, dumb and rich: Elgort and Egerton

roberts spacey irvine
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Billionaire Boys Club Based on a true story, this tale of early 1980s greed is watchable mainly due to its bright young cast. But the plot gets bogged down in money details, and as the characters cross various moral lines it becomes difficult to root for them. The movie leaps along quickly, directed and played with plenty of sparky energy. But the emphasis is on events rather than people.

While a teen, fast-talking Dean (Egerton) connects with brainy Joe (Elgort) because both are poor kids in a rich school. So they pretend to be wealthy to fit in. Six years later, they meet again in Los Angeles. Both are living beyond their means, and Dean introduces Joe to the Beverly Hills high life, rejoining their rich friends (including Irvine, Rottman and Cocquerel) from school. Joe also falls for Sydney (Roberts), the coolest girl on the scene. But their most important contact is wheeler-dealer Ron (Spacey), who can spin gold out of almost anything.

"It's not about the money," Dean says. "It's about the way people see you." While hanging out with heirs to fortunes, Dean and Joe enjoy a lifestyle they can't actually afford while profiting from financial scams. Soon they have a line-up of seriously high-powered investors. And when things inevitably go wrong, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell who's on their side and who's conning them. Then things get violent and seriously messy.

Elgort and Egerton are a superb double-act, nicely playing off each other as Dean's bluster augments Joe's smarts. If their friendship was more central to the plot, the film might have been a lot more compelling. Instead, the focus is on the harm their greed causes to others and each other. Spacey is on scene-stealing form in an enjoyably flashy role that only barely avoids going over the top. But Roberts is sidelined, getting just one strong scene at the end.

The story shifts as seeming financial triumphs give way to nasty surprises. So while the first half is a lightweight variation on The Wolf of Wall Street, the rest is a slog, as desperation leads to panic and even murder. Vivid performances from Elgort and Egerton make it worth watching. But it's a big problem that we never want them to get away with any of this, even if they have been caught unexpectedly in criminality or betrayed by lies. So in the end, it's difficult to understand why we're watching their story at all.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.Aug.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall