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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 20, 2018

Billionaire Boys Club: The True Story Of Wealthy Boys In California Who Try To Get Rich Quick & End Up As Murderers

‘THE BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB’ is based on the real life story of wealthy boys in Southern California in the early 1980s who formed an investment company that was actually a get-rich quick pyramid or Ponzi scheme with promises that are just too good to be true. It ended badly when their investor, who turned out to be a conman, swindled them. Five of the preppy members of the club later gained notoriety and faced trial for murder in a much publicized court case.

It was filmed before as a TV movie in 1987 starring Judd Nelson and Brian Mcnamara. The new version stars Ansel Elgort (“Baby Driver”) as the leader, Joe Hunt, with Taron Egerton (“Kingsman”) as his friend, Dean Carny, and Oscar winner Kevin Spacey as the con man, Ron Levin, who ends up being murdered.

The movie was made before Spacey became controversial and a persona non grata in Hollywood because of the sexual harrassment cases filed against by several men. So releasing the movie became problematic after Spacey was fired from Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World” and was replaced by Christopher Plummer.

Now, it’s finally being released theatrically on a limited run and the producers declare: “We don't condone sexual harassment on any level and we fully support victims of it. At the same time, this is neither an easy nor insensitive decision to release this film in theatres, but we believe in giving the cast, as well as hundreds of crew members who worked hard on the film, the chance to see their final product reach audiences.”

Hunt and Karny got the idea for their scheme when they saw a picture of Steve Jobs on the cover of Time Magazine. Hunt comes up with the Paradox Theory, where he says bad can be good and it’s only a matter of perspective. Soon, the Billionaire Boys Club is running their scheme where they use funds from new investors to pay off old ones and support an extravagant lifestyle of sex, drugs, expensive suits and yes, women.

They’ll remind you of Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, in “The Wolf of Wall Street” directed by Martin Scorcese. The difference is Scorcese doesn’t tell us to sympathize with Jordan. Director Jamex Cox of this movie seems to want us to care for Ansel and friends, which is hard to do since they committed undeniable crimes.

Spacey is presented here as a nebulously gay con man who’s seen chatting with Cary Elwes as Andy Warhol and later preys on the young men with attractive promises of earning millions of dollars. In fairness to him, Spacey (who’s excellent as the crooked US President in “House of Cards”, where he’s also been fired) gives a very rivetting performance that somewhat echoes his current image today after the controversies he got himself in.

Ansel and Taron give equally engaging performances of their rise-and-fall characters, young men dreaming of upward social mobility but resorting to dubious means, along with the other members of the club: Ryan Rottman, Jeremy Irvine, Barney Harris and Thomas Cocquerel, and Emma Robert and Suki Waterhouse as the girlfriends of Ansel and Taron. Judd Nelson shows up playing the father of Ansel, whose character he played in the 1987 film. Things get more thrilling during the climactic events portrayed after the scheme, like a slow train wreck, turns deadly.

The production values are slick as a whole, including the 1980s period production design. It is pretty fast paced and has a good retropop soundtrack including hit songs of the era, including Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place”, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’ “Relax” and Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes”.