Women, drugs and dirty business are the bread and butter of Martin Scorsese’s great gangster movies – Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed – so it makes perfect sense that he should have turned his attention to the infamous stock swindler Jordan Belfort for his latest movie.
And in The Wolf of Wall Street, it seems we have the director winding back to his glory days and finding the the kind of exciting form we haven’t seen in years.
Leonardo di Caprio plays the young Belfort, who gathers a huge team of hungry young brokers to make scripted cold calls to unwary investors.
The famous motto of Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gecko from Wall Street was ‘Greed is good’. In Belfort’s world, with office entertainment including dwarf throwing contests and roller-skating chimps, it might be better described as greed is stupid.
Like a modern day Caligula – the Roman emperor who was legendary for his perversions and excesses – we see di Caprio and his co-conspirator Jonah Hill indulge every whim off the back of their suckered investors.
The script does not hold back on showing all aspects of their rollercoaster lifestyle, including the girls and the drugs, which
may raise eyebrows and shock moralistic audiences.
Since the financial crash of 2008, the extreme antics of the bankers
have increasingly found their way onto the screen, including the quickly forgotten 2010 sequel to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and the superb documentary Inside Job (2010).
None, however, have quite captured the over-the-top excess of young men enjoying quick riches as this film does.
And thanks to the committed lead performances and the witty script, based on Belfort’s self-penned confession, the audience can’t help but be taken along for the ride.
Of course, as in all morality stories, there must be a comeuppance and the day of reckoning eventually arrives when the FBI come knocking, but not before an awful lot of fun is had.
Review by Joe Gill