Rarely do I get excited about a film because of the people in it, especially one’s “Based on a True Story” I’ve never heard of. One reason I go to the movies is to forget these people are actors and get engrossed by their performances. But when I saw Ansel Elgort and Taron Egerton, two of my favourite terribly named actors, starring in a movie about a sleazy 80s Ponzi scheme, I paid more attention. That’s the premise of Billionaire Boy’s Club, which promises a bevy of drugs, debauchery, and dastardly dealings.
Unfortunately, like the Billionaire Boy’s Club (BBC for short), the filmmakers bit off more they could chew, but not by much. A $15 million budget can’t really do justice to an event where seven, eight, and nine-figure checks are being passed around. So while it can’t really compete with similar coke-fueled insanity films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Billionaire Boy’s Club provides a great reason for straight-to-on-demand movies to exist.
Billionaire Boy’s Club
Director: James Cox
Release Date: July 17, 2018 (On-demand), August 17, 2018 (Limited)
Billionaire Boy’s Club follows Joe Hunt (Elgort) and Dean Karny (Egerton), best friends with middle-class upbringings trying to make it into the upper echelon of LA society. After the duo partner up in business and botch an investment with money they don’t have, they double down and fool some trust fund babies into giving them enough money to start the BBC, a hybrid investment banking social club for rich kids trying to come out from their parents’ shadows. In reality, the entire club was a Ponzi scheme largely used for the 20-somethings to live way beyond their means. The plot is predictable if not a good excuse to show off some 80s-era excess. Its got fast-talking schlubs in suits, wanton disregard for other people’s money and enough cocaine to kill at least a small elephant.
Egerton, the schmoozer of the duo, plays best in this theme, his antics dressing up as Nancy Reagan and constant buzz-word laden speeches being quite believable. Elgort as the more bookish Hunt also provides a solid performance as he transforms from mild-mannered number cruncher to greedy, desperate criminal and focal point of the movie. The rest of the cast is largely forgettable, save Kevin Spacey (whose controversy may turn some off from this movie) who has an engaging performance as an investment banker and mentor to Hunt Ron Levin. Even with only three engaging characters, it’s still quite good as they have 80% of the screen time.
However, that’s part of Billionaire Boy’s Club problem; the film never rises above good. There are tense scenes and genuine conflicts, but it never feels like a boiling point is reached. Elgort’s chemistry with love interest Emma Roberts is passable, but there are no fireworks. Occasionally a character will monologue about greed or paradoxes or reality, but the thought is dropped next scene. It all ends up being quite run of the mill, especially as the second half of the film starts losing pace. As evidenced by Egerton narrating nearly the entire movie, it’s just too on the nose at times.
On the nose isn’t really bad, though; it’s probably what makes Billionaire Boy’s Club work. It’s a breezy, slick enough drama with enough little quirks to spice things up and keep you interested without overtaxing your brain. I was hoping Egerton and Elgort could provide a new kind of anti-hero buddy cop film that showed off their star power, but I just got an enjoyable enough romp that I won’t watch again but won’t dissuade others from seeing