Movie review: 'Billionaire Boys Club' is no 'Wolf of Wall Street'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jul 25 2018 11:51 AM

In July 1983, sweet-talking smart guys Joe Hunt and Dean Karny convinced their wealthy friends In Los Angeles to put their money into the BBC, their investment/social club where you can supposedly earn 50% in three quick weeks. With the backing of their financier, Ron Levin, the boys steadily built up their monetary portfolio, as well as their lifestyle. However, time came when tables eventually turned against Hunt and Karny in deadly ways.

"Billionaire Boys Club" is based on true-to-life events that happened in Southern California in 1983. We have all heard of these get-rich-quick schemes, a modus of crime which proliferates up to the present day. We know that any investment scheme which sounds to good to be true is most probably a scam. In this film, the shady nature of the BBC business was apparent from the get-go, so we know it was not going to last. 

However the consequences of their greed and corruption were so convoluted, such that it was proof that truth was indeed stranger than fiction. The unexpectedly violent twists of fate that happened to Hunt and Karny prior to the conclusion was so far out of this world, it was actually so hard to believe that those additional crimes actually happened in real life. It felt like bad writing while I was watching it, only to find out when researching about the events afterwards that these actually did happen for real.

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This film stars two of the up-and-coming young leading men in Hollywood today -- "Baby Driver" Ansel Elgort (as smart naive Joe Hunt) and "Kingsman" Taron Egerton (as slick and slimy Dean Karny). Oddly though, even with presence of these two actors in there, the whole movie never really took off. Everything felt so flat. There was no sense of exhilarating excitement in the first part as they were building up their business. This was certainly no "Wolf of Wall Street." 

The controversial Kevin Spacey is back on the screen in this one. The producers were bold enough to leave his scenes in and proceed to release their film (unlike those of "All the Money in the World"). Of course, Spacey can really play this flamboyant character Ron Levin like the back of his hand. Knowing his alleged crimes of indiscretion in real life gave his sleazy portrayal of Levin an additional layer of discomfort to watch. He felt like he could be playing himself. 

The interesting story was there. The right actors were there. (Even '80s actor Judd Nelson was in the cast, unrecognizable as Joe's father. Nelson played Joe Hunt in a 1987 TV mini-series about the BBC.) 

However, writer-director James Cox fell short of creating the right atmosphere and pacing for the film to work. He failed to capitalize on his aces and instead came up with something just okay, not too engaging nor memorable. 5/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."