The Wolf of Wall Street
Given the recent reaction to The Wolf of Wall Street, I’m surprised with the reactions to it. While most of the reviews are very positive, a lot of people, especially other major film critics are calling out director Martin Scorsese for not making a movie about the dark world of criminals, but rather romanticizing them, henceforth, encouraging his actions among the mainstream audience. Really? An experienced writer would assume that if this crooked man can look cool doing drugs and laundering millions of dollars, then a lot of people would want to emulate him? Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street.
First of all, it’s not like that Scorsese hasn’t given his criminals in Goodfellas and Casino ritzy lifestyles while doing their heinous actions. Scorsese has simply moved his bad guys up to the next level. Second of all, I think that the intelligent don’t give enough credit to the mainstream audience. They still have strong instincts, and I think their smart enough to know not to consume Quaaludes while driving (a scene from this movie). Finally, if the mainstream audience is really in the thinking mood, they’d realize that this movie is simply about how every bad guy eventually meets his demise, even if he’s not caught by the police, his empire will fall. The Wolf of Wall Street knows it’s an insensitive story about a guy taking advantage of everything.
In 1987, Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is fresh-faced twenty year-old, looking to become a part of the Wall Street scene as a stockbroker. His first job lands him at a place run by Mark Hanna (played by Mathew McConaughey), where he’s told to engage in a lifestyle of cocaine and prostitutes for any chance of succeeding. Just when he finally passes his Series 7 exam and receives his license, he looses his job after the events of the 1987 Black Monday.
At the suggestion of his wife, he takes a job selling penny stocks. His gift of aggressive selling makes him a large success. He meets with his neighbor Donnie Azcoff (played by Jonah Hill) who decides to quit his job and become Jordan’s partner. This encourages both of them to start their own trading company where they bring a long local drug dealers to suddenly become brokers. Thanks to the guidance under Jordan, it’s only a matter of months when they become a billion dollar company. The company is anything but professional as everyone is in on the drugs, sex, and constant millions being thrown down the drain.
The Wolf of Wall Street is not a glorification movie. I saw this as two things. One, it’s a study of how the greed of these maniacs contributed to the downfall of our economy. Two, it’s a look at how much one persons ambition is inspiring enough to want to be this guy, but with the mindset of putting it all in the right place. It’s scary that someone like Jordan Belfort had this much power and money coming in, but I think there are people like this who don’t care about the common man.
Having said that, I think that The Wolf of Wall Street is the modern Goodfellas movie that Scorsese had been trying to do for sometime. Not to say something like The Departed or Shutter Island were bad; it’s just that this one seems to have a lot of fun with itself more. I’m not even into the financial circuits of Wall Street, yet the easy lessons from the movie may have me trading stocks faster then Richie Rich.
Leonardo DiCaprio has come far from Titanic. He has gone from a teen heartthrob to one of the most respected players in Hollywood. There were no shortcuts here. DiCaprio is having as much fun as the movie has with itself. If he’s having fun, then I am too. Jonah Hill manages his part as well, playing a salesman whose trying to play a stereotypical wealthy whap. Scorsese knows how to get all the right actors for the small parts. One guy that surprised me was Rob Reiner, playing DiCaprio’s father working for his son. His performance is crude, but it’s a surprise coming a guy who had seemed to play more soft-spoken characters before.
I’ll give this five sets of penny stocks out of five. I hope you can get past the cool cars and period clothing (I forgot to mention that this is a nineties set story) for a movie that’s not about how cool a criminal is, but rather how the riches of one man can turn against him.