Gimme Five: White-Collar Crime Movies

BY ERIN TORRANCE

With The Wolf of Wall Street out in theatres this week, we count down the top five white-collar crime films—in case you just can’t get enough of crooked corporations around the holidays.

5) Boiler Room

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Boiler Room follows the development of Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), a college dropout who gets the chance to interview for a junior stock broker position at JT Marlin, a small New York-brokerage. Motivated by love and his father’s disapproval, Seth craves for a big sale and high commission; however, Seth has some encounters that make him question the legitimacy of the company. The Wolf of Wall Street is presumably the prototype for this film.

4) Office Space

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In this story of corporate revenge, a disillusioned Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) finally loses interest in his job at Initech; surprisingly, his “I don’t give a shit” attitude sees him promoted through the ranks. However, when he finds out that two of his best friends will soon be fired, the three Initech employees, with the help of Peter’s neighbour, work together to embezzle what was intended to be just fractions of cents from each financial institution—in reality, they end up getting much more than they intended. In this white-collar crime comedy, the lower ranks end up undermining the corporation.

3) Glengarry Glen Ross

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With a star cast that includes Kevin Spacey (of course), Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin and Alec Arkin (whose middle name is coincidentally “Wolf”), this white-collar crime movie follows the inside action of a Chicago real estate office. While this film seems somewhat slow-moving at times, it really is amusing to see what techniques these desperate realtors will use to try to snag a sale, especially when it comes down to a competition for an El Dorado for the top salesman, knife set for second and a trip to the pavement for third. Knowing that their jobs are at stake, these salesmen will resort to anything to get the top leads, and that includes fooling the boss (Kevin Spacey) and committing robbery. In this cutthroat competition, we see the inner machinations of a crooked Chicago real estate company.

2) Margin Call

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Also starring Kevin Spacey, Margin Call takes us into the inner workings of a financial institution on the edge of a financial crisis. Presumably based on the story of Merrill Lynch, the head of this Wall Street financial institution, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), is told that the firm is about to drown in toxic mortgage-backed securities. Tuld instructs his firm to start selling off these dead investments, telling his staff: “You’re selling something you know has no value. Be first, be smarter or cheat.” Essentially, to save the company, they pin the bad investments on others and the ex-risk division management head, Sam Rogers (Spacey), becomes the scapegoat, even though he’s been warning the company that something just isn’t right up to the point when he is let go, just a few hours before his protégé, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), discovers what Rogers was on his way to uncovering. Even those with a moral compass find themselves dragged under by this unethical wave.

1) The Insider

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Starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, The Insider follows the attempts of a research chemist to uncover the dangers of tobacco. Forced to sign a confidentiality agreement following his unexplained dismissal from a major tobacco company, presumably because he expressed his concerns over the use of certain chemicals in cigarettes along with nicotine, Jeffrey Wiggan (Crowe) finds himself under personal attack, with unidentified persons threatening his safety and that of his family. Eventually, Wiggan’s personal life starts to unravel as he wages war against Big Tobacco with the help of “60 Minutes” reporter Lowell Bergman (Pacino).

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