The stockbroker genre has become a staple of contemporary American cinema in the way that the Wild West, with its Indian wars, gunslingers and rustlers was when the venerable director Martin Scorsese was cutting his chops in the world of the movies.
A consummate filmmaker who is as much curator as creator, he has turned the autobiography of Jordan Belfort, a larger-than-life Wall Street dealer, into a ripping yarn in which aspiration in overdrive (or avarice, if you prefer) is the great American leitmotif.
In The Wolf Of Wall Street, Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), before being undone by the consequences of his shonky practices, attains unimaginable wealth as a latter-day Gordon Gekko with a tendency to shout a lot and a taste for all manner of drugs that is only surpassed by his addiction to money.
It’s not a pretty characterisation, but Jordan’s Darwinian amorality and his frenzied commitment to the chase sweeps you along with him.
The heavily emphasised coke-snorting, binge-drinking, orgiastic lifestyle of Jordan and his cronies – Jonah Hill is brilliant as equally whacked-out Donnie Azoff – includes plenty of naked chicks but, in all that unfettered, spontaneous rooting, there are no penises to offend the eye (Scorsese, notwithstanding his out-there bravura, remains unwilling to contravene Hollywood’s unspoken edict re the male member). And it’s funny, too – I haven’t laughed so much in yonks as I did when Jordan collapsed legless at a country club after sharing a bottle of quaaludes with Donnie.
Through all of the tumult there is the regular narration of Jordan himself, as he reflects on his career, and if Scorsese is to be faulted it should be for paying no attention to the voices of those affected by his crimes.
After an at times exhilarating and always engaging three hours, the question lingers; are we meant to like Jordan? To admire him? The last shot of the FBI agent who had pursued him hints at where Scorsese’s sympathies lay, but I could do neither so left feeling that he had received soft treatment.
~ John Campbell