The Wolf of Wall Street, which plays out like an interesting amalgamation of Goodfellas, Wall Street, and Blow, sees Scorsese pull us from our seats and launch us into the selfish, hedonistic, money-hungry world of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio). The audience is mercilessly dragged along, forced to watch as Belfort goes further and further, sacrificing more and more, in his drunken desire for power.
In Oliver Stone’s depiction of New York’s financial district, you have to break the law to be successful. Here, dishonesty isn’t enough, you have to be an arsehole too. The film opens with Belfort’s first day on Wall Street. Young, naïve, and, most importantly, sober – Belfort is introduced to his boss, the deranged Mark Hanna (McConaughey), who advises him, among other things, to stop caring and start masturbating. After a month of cocaine, strippers, and stocks, the company collapses and Belfort is forced to work in an amateur business dealing worthless penny stocks. Discovering the easy money to be made from large commissions, he hires Donnie (Hill), compiles a team, builds himself up, and, through conning gullible Americans, watches as the money rolls in.
Whether or not the film accurately depicts Wall Street, a question raised in other reviews, is beside the point. Much like in all his films – Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, or indeed the more recent Shutter Island – Scorsese immerses the viewer in the world of his protagonist. Here, we are completely in the mind of Jordan Belfort – excuse the cliché. Everyone is rich. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone cheats. And everybody shags everybody. In no scene, except for one, do we see the people who inhabit the world outside Wall Street. Belfort narrates his life to us in long, witty monologues, we hear his thoughts, we see what he sees. But, as the law begins to catch up and the age-old criminal question arises – “to rat, or not to rat?” – the monologues go and the humour drains from the picture until, by the end, the audience is left staring into the dead eyes of a man hollowed out by the promise that greed is good.
Depraved, sick, and incredibly funny, The Wolf of Wall Street is a brilliant film with a thoroughly convincing cast. Complimented by the blind devotion of an office full of followers and a memorable Oscar-nominated performance from Hill, DiCaprio excels in his portrayal of money-induced madness. Working from a script by Terence Winter, Scorsese’s presentation is both original and refreshing – an orgy of dwarf-tossing, goldfish-eating, drug-consuming, yacht-sinking mayhem. It’s absolutely horrific. You’ll love it.