With this film Martin Scorsese proves himself to be a rockstar, and that too at a ripe young age of 71.When you are able to deliver a 3 hour-long film and make it feel breezy for a mass audience you have left the Christopher Nolan’s and Peter Jackson’s of the world pretty far behind.But this is also a Leonardo DiCaprio show.He is certainly the new De Nero and his performance as The Wolf of Wall Street has the collective ferocity of a pack of very hungry wolves.
Leonardo has been perfecting this character for a long time, from The Aviator to Shutter Island to Django Unchained, he is so good at playing people who have traded sanity for a whole lot of money, consequently becoming dangerous to everybody around them, and most certainly to themselves.This is a completely fearless and unselfconscious performance, DiCaprio literally unleashes the beast inside him.
Pretty early in the film, in a virtuoso opening act, DiCaprio shows us how.He quickly establishes his drug and sex addiction, but after snorting yet another line of cocaine from a 100 dollar bill, he unfurls it, and announces that there is nothing more addictive than money in this world.He crumples the bill into a ball and tosses it into a bin already full of discarded 100 dollar bills.Obviously he has not heard about the starving children in Africa, which is also true of most billionaires in the world.That is exactly what this film is about- a pathological addiction to moneymaking and then using it to feed a drug and sex fuelled lifestyle.These characters are not turned on by a big bank balance, they get their rush from the process of making money.In fact a lot of money sitting around is a bit of a pain,it needs to be laundered, taped to bodies of bimboes all the way to Switzerland.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a real life Wall Street stockbroker, who make millions in dubious deals.His buddy is Donnie(Jonah Hill),yeah it’s a bit of a buddy movie too, and they are soon making more money than they ever imagined or know how to spend.Along the way Jordan gets rid his redneck wife who gave him the billion dollar idea of making money in the first place, and marries the stunningly beautiful Naomi(Margot Robbie) whose appearance at a party causes Jordan to stop in his tracks and Donnie to do something that needs to be seen to be believed.Of course a bulk of what they are doing is illegal and FBI soon gets a whiff of the powder keg from which they are snorting.
The drugs and deviant sexual behaviour are so firmly foreground and physical comedy so liberally used that deleted footage from this film can make a feature-length Hangover Part 4 . BTW if you are wondering what the actors are snorting, it is crushed vitamin B pills which somehow helped deliver the great performances. Some of the dialogue has the motormouth quality of Glengarry Glen Ross, but these characters have the opposite problem. One of the best scenes happens on Jordan’s snazzy boat where he tries to bribe the FBI agent played by Kyle Chandler.Both actors put up an act that is riveting to say the least.
So is this a cautionary tale? I doubt it.In fact I fully expect Wall Street alpha-males to watch this film and spend a crazy night out copying the antics of Mr Belfort, all on a bottomless expense account. JP Morgan has paid more than 20 billion dollars in fines this year and they are quite happy about it.That they can afford it, that their crimes warrant this kind of a fine, and that they still have their banking licence tells us loud and clear that in a post Lehman Brothers world nothing has really changed.I was reminded of an anecdote about Joseph Heller who wrote Catch 22.He went to a young investment bankers party and his friend asked him how he felt about the fact that the banker was making so much money.Heller replied that the banker will never have something he already has- “enough”.
Scorsese displays the energy of a young Oliver Stone of Natural Born Killers but since he is on the right side of seventy he knows how to keep his anger bottled up and not spoil the party for the producers.Mark Twin said the best way to get rid of a temptation is to succumb to it.The characters in Wolf demonstrate that just too well.
Its been nearly 20 years since Gordon Gekko famously preached, “Greed is Good”.Well, for better or worse, on Wall Street, Greed-“for the lack of a better word”, is still Good.