The Boost

Directed by Harold Becker

> > Oct 2003

The Boost - Directed by Harold Becker
By Allan TongThe Boost is a modern morality tale of greed and excess. James Woods plays super-high-strung New York salesman Lenny Brown who lands a gig selling tax shelter properties in mid-'80s L.A. He convinces his amiable wife (played by a cardboard Sean Young) to move with him. A classic type-A personality, Lenny overspends (cars, big house, an airplane) then lands hard when the tax loopholes close overnight. It doesn't help that a lot of Lenny's clients are drug dealers. Inevitably, Lenny picks up the straw and snorts away his money, marriage and life. This is a movie that should've worked; there's a strong storyline and a worthy message to convey. However, James Woods' performance is so wired from the first frame that we trace little development in his character; there's no before-and-after to depict the tragedy. Lenny's wife (Young) acts as the film's conscience, but she is too passive and sweet to make much of an impression. Director Becker gives his leading couple too long a leash, and should have reigned in Woods while pushing Young. Some things work though. Supporting player Steven Hill (Law and Order) lends warmth and grace to the father figure, Max, who hires Woods to work in L.A. And while melodramatic, The Boost avoids preaching. The extras here are generous. Woods and Becker deliver a fluid commentary track that reveals their intentions for most scenes, which sadly fail to deliver on screen. The deleted scenes (with optional commentary) are interesting at best. The Boost was released in 1988 at the height of the greedy '80s when hubris would befall junk-bond kings and televangelists ensnared in scandal and corruption. The Boost is certainly a reflection of its times, but unlike superior films like Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend (about alcoholism) and Axel Freed‘s The Gambler, The Boost never transcends its milieu. Plus: trailer. (MGM)
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