YOU sometimes wonder if there is anything new to say about the greed and grossness of the super-rich who work in the world’s financial centres, especially after Michael Douglas’ brilliant performance in 1987’s Wall Street. But Scorsese’s latest project is an eye-opener. It’s also very funny.
While Douglas’ Gordon Gekko traded in blue chip companies, Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) starts off at Rothschild, gets dumped after Black Wednesday, then starts his own pump and dump in a shack on Long Island.
His trade is touting penny stocks — effectively lying through his teeth to persuade poor people to buy grossy-inflated stocks on rubbish companies. It’s a filthy business, but also an extremely lucrative one — the poor are the ones who will easily buy into the American Dream — and in no time Belfort is making millions, gadding about in yachts and Lamborghinis and hiring brass bands, hookers and dwarves to entertain his workers.
He fuels his seemingly limitless energy with shedloads of cocaine and other substances that normal people have never heard of, such as Quaaludes.
It’s a tale of disgusting debauchery and corruption, but even though Belfort (a real life character whose memoirs form the backbone of this story) is a monster, I despised him and loved him in equal measure. He is irreverent and hedonistic — yet makes no excuses for his outrageous behaviour.
DiCaprio puts in the performance of a lifetime, transforming from drug-addled antihero to smart city slicker in the blink of an eye. There is an element of the cartoon in this film, but the one moment of introspection, when Belfort tells an elderly aunt (Joanna Lumley) that he’s just a drug and sex addict is beautifully played — with no trace of schmaltz.
Film: The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey