They say that money is the root of all evil. But it’s when you’re broke that you think of the most evil things. Desperate men, after all, resort to desperate things. And the truth of this can be seen in Billionaire Boys Club, a film where a gang of cash-strapped kids end up committing murder. It’s a plot so sensational that it would be unbelievable if it weren’t actually a true story.
Directed by James Cox, this film is based on the real life Billionaire Boys Club, a 1980s investment club in Los Angeles specialising in get-rich-quick schemes. Led by best friends Joe Hunt (played by Ansel Elgort) and Dean Karny (Taron Egerton) the club lives the high life, with lavish houses, cars, girls, the works. When things start going wrong, however, Joe and Dean find themselves having to do some terrible things. So it’s a lot like The Wolf Of Wall Street, except the “wolves” in this movie actually do some killing.
This story was also dramatised in a 1987 miniseries, also called Billionaire Boys Club. There, Joe is played by Judd Nelson, who also appears in this new film (this time playing Ryan Hunt, Joe’s father).
This new adaptation of the Billionaire Boys Club is an absorbing watch. Elgort and Egerton have good chemistry, and play their parts well. Joe and Dean are portrayed as over-ambitious and proud men, but never outright wicked, carrying out their club’s affairs with the best of intentions until poor choices lead them to a life of crime. Only thing better than watching a hero rise is watching one fall, after all. It’s difficult to relate to a film where both the protagonists are criminals, but Elgort and Egerton infuse their characters with just enough likeability to make it work.
Also, for a movie based on a scandal involving the rich and powerful, it’s ironic that its release is being affected by a present celebrity scandal. Namely, the involvement of Kevin Spacey, who plays Ron Levin.
Spacey is currently in disgrace because of allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by fellow actor Anthony Rapp – a lot of the movie-going public has lost their taste for seeing him.
Billionaire Boys Club, however, was filmed in 2015, two-and-a-half years before these allegations surfaced, and doing an All The Money In The World (a film which digitally replaced Spacey with Christopher Plummer in all his scenes) was not an option for the filmmakers.
As a result, the film is only going to be released by distributor Vertical Entertainment through video-in-demand in the United States, and will only be getting a limited release there in August. A pity, because Spacey aside, the film is well worth a watch.
And how is Spacey, by the way? He’s not bad. His character, Ron Levin, is a smooth-talking, slimy high-roller who invests in the club. He’s in relatively few scenes, but every time his character appears, he is just so delightful to hate.
The movie also raises a lot of interesting themes, particularly fascinating is the club’s application of “Paradox Principle”. This involves re-framing one’s perceptions until a loss can be viewed as a win. As the story progresses, it’s slightly chilling to see how this becomes justification for the club to do anything.
Billionaire Boys Club has a few flaws: Emma Roberts is decent, but somewhat forgettable as Sydney, Joe’s shoehorned in artist love interest. And the character of Tim, one of the club’s security personnel, is handled in a very odd way: he lurks in the background for most of the first act, suddenly becomes important, and then sort of fades into the background again.
One also wonders what the overall impact of this film will be. We may never know what EXACTLY transpired in the affairs of the real life Billionaire Boys Club, but this film seems to go out of its way to make Joe Hunt, in particular, seem sympathetic. Bit unusual, considering in real life, he was convicted for murder.
All in all, Billionaire Boys Club is definitely worth investing your time in. Should be required watching for public figures who once had everything, only to lose it all after getting in trouble with the law over huge financial scandals.
Billionaire Boys Club
Director: James Cox
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Emma Roberts, Kevin Spacey