Steve Taylor-Bryant takes a look at the life story of Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street, as he watches the Martin Scorsese film about stock market corruption, greed and excess...
"An I.P.O. is an initial public offering. It's the first time a stock is offered for sale to the general population. Now as the firm taking the company public, we set the initial sales price then sold those shares right back to our friends. Yet...Look, I know you're not following what I'm saying anyway, right? That's... that's okay, that doesn't matter. The real question is this: was all this legal? Absolutely fucking not. But we were making more money than we knew what do with."
Clocking in a minute shy of three hours The Wolf of Wall Street sounds like a long film, but so enjoyable is the experience as a viewer that times flies by. Well, I say "enjoyable" because I was thoroughly entertained throughout but after watching the film with company, I have been informed that some of you out there may see the glorious orgy of excess as a bad thing and maybe not be so enthralled with the drug taking, dwarf tossing, corruption of the highest order as I am. Shame on you!
Jordan Belfort is a Long Island penny stockbroker who served 22 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive 1990s securities scam that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including shoe designer Steve Madden. Jordan lived a life of greed and excess, where nothing was off the table, until the F.B.I. got involved and his world unravelled. After serving his sentence Jordan wrote his memoirs. The Wolf of Wall Street is those memories.
I can see why the like of Jordan Belfort is not everyone’s cup of tea, I am in no way condoning drug use, or criminal acts, fraud, the torture and abuse of innocent people, what they did was wrong clearly but I can’t help but admire their tenacity, their utter belief that they deserve a certain lifestyle and how they just go out and make their own dreams come true. If I had maybe put 10% of their effort into my own life, I may not be robbing Peter to pay Paul every month. To make these stories work on screen though, to take someone so despicable and make an audience show a shred of love towards them, is the holy grail of film-making and my word didn’t Martin Scorsese smash it out of the park.
The story is Wall Street on a drug high. It takes those tales you may have heard whispered about debauchery and plays them out on screen with the most unlikely of ensembles. Jonah Hill on Quaaludes is honestly one of the most enjoyable scenes I have ever experienced and something I never knew I wanted in my life. Rob Reiner throwing a hissy fit because someone calls him during The Equalizer is so superb. Matthew McConaughey beating his chest is a more impactive scene than it sounds. The script just seems to suit every member of the cast perfectly, Margot Robbie as Naomi is another fantastic surprise when you think this was her most major role in the movies and she does not once seem out of place. That’s the beauty within The Wolf of Wall Street, everyone steps up to the plate no matter how big their role or how small their supposed portfolio. And it’s all wrapped up in a bow of Scorsese genius.
The entire film is run at such a pace that the runtime pales into insignificance, come the end you want more. It is beautifully lavish to look at, like Miami Vice in 4K. It is sharply edited and narrated with such a unique voice that you buy into Jordan and his antics. But, most of all, it is funny as all hell. Scorsese always seems to add a little humour into his projects, Goodfellas had its moments, as did Taxi Driver, but this is just hilarious from beginning to end. It probably wasn’t for Jordan at the time, but there were moments in The Wolf of Wall Street where I was on the floor crying tears of utter joy. We all know Leonardo DiCaprio is an astonishing actor, but I never had him down as a comedic force before this film. There is a smugness about Leonardo in this film, like a man who has begun to believe his own hype, and it really works for him in his performance of Belfort and shows that he can not only do serious drama, but he can hit all those marks that you maybe haven’t seen before from him. It’s another powerhouse showing of Leonardo DiCaprio playing a real-life person, another Scorsese and DiCaprio film that exceeds all expectation, and another film where I get left with the question ‘what the hell do these guys need to do to charm the Academy?’.
Image - IMDb.