THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) – Paul Laight’s Movie Review
**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS + MOVIE CLIPS PLUS REFERENCES TO SEX, DRUG USE, GREED & BRILLIANT FILMMAKING**
To say The Wolf of Wall Street has its coke and eats it is a massive understatement. It’s black-belt-bukakke movie-making of the highest order. A voracious sexy beast of a film which showers the audience with one incredible scene of excess after the other. To put it bluntly: it’s Goodfellas fucks Scarface and Wall Street then gives birth to a movie bastard of epic proportions.
Based on a memoir by disgraced human scum Jordan Belfort – a drug-addicted-sex-addicted-thieving-stockbroker-par-excellence – The Wolf of Wall Street follows the same rise-and-fall structure of mafia classic Goodfellas as DiCaprio’s Belfort schemes and sells his soul to power up through the snakes and ladders of Wall Street. As the superlative scene with Matthew McConaghey demonstrates the Stock Exchange is a “fugazi” – a fake. The main aim is to make more and more money while screwing the investors. The best traders are wolves in a vicious snakepit swimming with sharks ripping off a house of fools.
As Belfort’s firm Stratton Oakmont becomes out of control so does his wealth as he and his motley crue of traders manipulate and connive and deceive to create a monstrous company of wolves who regale in dwarf-throwing, blow-jobbing, lude-swallowing mania. The extreme is only halfway for these people. The superb cast including: DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jean Dujardin and Jonah Hill, play these venal cunts with such charm and humour you often find yourself complicit with their nefarious behaviour almost willing the characters to push further and further with their depravity.
But as the drug use, debauchery and money increased so did my hatred for these greedy capitalist pigs. On the one hand I was enjoying the rollercoaster ride of the story but on the other I was horrified at the fact such people and behaviour exist on this planet. That is the skill of the filmmakers though: making these Wall Street monsters likeable, funny, believable and human. Indeed, Belfort himself is ultimately a sorry figure shown to be a monstrous addict who is powerless to stop himself from indulging in every drug and hooker under the sun. But Scorcese and DiCaprio don’t give Belfort any kind of redemption. He’s still a massive prick at the end of the film; a free prick walking the earth but just not as rich as he once was.
Martin Scorcese is one of the greatest living filmmakers still working today and The Wolf of Wall Street feels like a greatest hits package combining all of the finer ingredients from his other films. You’ve got the classic swooning camera moves; the direct address to camera; cat-and-dog couples fighting as seen in Casino and Goodfellas; the boat-in-peril sequence as seen in Cape Fear; the multi-character voiceovers; the dumb criminals putting themselves in the shit; characters turning on each other and ratting each other out as seen most recently in The Departed; plus many many more. But whereas Scorcese used to deal with outsiders and oddballs like Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin he is now dealing with Insiders, Gods and members of the Master-Race. Aside from Kyle Chandler as the dedicated FBI Agent there are no honest characters in this film and at times the it feels like a depressing advert for the greed-is-good-Gordon-Gekko-philosophy.
Personally, I wanted a little more focus on the kind of crimes that were being committed plus more of comeuppance or death for Jordan Belfort. But in real life he essentially got away with everything having served a pretty short sentence for his “pump and dump” machinations; mainly because he became a dirty rat. I suppose the subtext of the film does ask the audience: does this monster deserve a second chance?
But this is NOT a heavy analysis of socio-economic morality and values but rather a bullet-paced black comedy filled with cracking scenes and razor-sharp one-liners delivered by a stellar cast. There are some great big performances and fine supporting players like: Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaghey, John Bernthal, Rob Reiner and Spike Jonze to name a few. But this is Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorcese’s film. As they demonstrated in The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island etc. they are a formidable team. DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for sheer consistency of performances but the Belfort character has already had enough success in his lifetime and threw it all away because of greed. Surely awarding an Oscar to such a heinous character would be TOO MUCH wouldn’t it? But as this film demonstrates TOO MUCH is never enough!