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Watch The Wolf of Wall Street Online The first corporations in the UK and the US were subject to very strict rules and regulations so as to prevent them from becoming too powerful. They could only engage in specific activities allowed for by the government (which were often for a public good). They could not own stock in other corporations. Their members could be personally liable if losses were incurred. It wasn’t until the late 19th Century that the first states in America started relaxing laws so as to stimulate business activity.
Let’s fast forward to the year 1987 and I’ll introduce you to 22-year-old Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio). It’s his first day working for a big stockbroking firm and he’s been taken out to lunch by his millionaire boss (McConaughey). Belfort is given two important tips to succeed – masturbate regularly and start doing cocaine. Both will keep him relaxed so that he can smooth talk investors into buying stock.
Does it matter that he knows nothing about the corporations that he’s recommending to his clients? Nope. The stockbroking game is not about picking winners and losers. It’s not about increasing the wealth of investors. Belfort is told the only thing he has to worry about is commissions. You see, brokers get their fee up front. They don’t care what happens after you’ve invested. Somehow, I don’t think this was envisioned by those who first came up with the idea of a “corporation”.
It’s hard to believe this is a true story. I’m sure a few elements have been embellished (the screenplay is based on Belfort’s autobiography) but the key facts have been proven. Within the space of a few years, Belfort created one of the world’s largest stockbroking companies and was worth roughly $200 million. A Forbes magazine article exposed some of his firm’s dodgy practices… but this only made Belfort more popular! Everyone wanted in. Everyone wanted to be rich. It was like pigs at a trough.
Brought to the screen by iconic director Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, The Departed), The Wolf Of Wall Street has generated controversy. Detractors believe that the film glorifies Belfort’s actions given its many comedic scenes and its lack of a moralistic conclusion. That was certainly not Scorsese’s intention. He didn’t want audiences to leave the cinema feeling better and thinking that the problem has been solved. He “wanted them to feel like they’d been slapped into recognising that this behaviour has been encouraged.” The film’s final scene is haunting in that regard.
Some might argue about the perverse content, the excessive coarse language (there are more than 500 f-bombs), the frequent drug use, the workplace sex, the orgies, the nudity, the misogyny, the discrimination… but it’s hard to fault the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. He starts out as an ordinary guy and transforms himself into someone so powerful, so influential that he could “sell lube to a convent full of nuns”. His passionate monologues will be remembered.
Even more grating is its over-reliance on DiCaprio’s never-ending narration, which only adds to the tedium of a movie that lazily tells its story via expository dialogue instead of the more challenging route of showing instead of telling. No wonder eight people walked out of the screening I attended. They were the smart ones. Everyone else absorbed a nonstop assault on the senses by a movie that’s loud, repetitive and completely devoid of character development.
Some have compared “Wolf” to “Goodfellas,” but those folks are obviously snorting the same substance Leonardo DiCaprio is as Belfort, the sex-, drug-, cash-addicted brokerage owner whom Forbes accurately termed a modern-day Robin Hood because he steals from the rich and gives to himself. He also regularly cheats on both his wives, ignores his kids and freely fosters a Caligula complex. He’s the very definition of a selfish, boorish jerk, even more so when he smugly accepts a piddly 22-month sentence for his dozens of crimes, including fraud, money laundering and bilking thousands of innocent clients out of billions. But what about the victims and the many lives his company’s debauchery ruined? Scorsese doesn’t care. He loves the scumbag, painting him in a purely positive light for most of the film’s outrageous 177-minute runtime. Your butt feels every grueling second of it, as Scorsese repeats the same two or three scenes over and over without ever allowing an editor to say “when.”
Those guys at least tried to live by a moral code that valued loyalty and integrity. On Wall Street, it's every guy for himself. While that lesson has been imparted by such financial world exposes as Wall Street and Boiler Room, The Wolf of Wall Street stands apart from those films in the way it eschews giving us a protagonist who redeems himself by renouncing the warped code of ethics he temporarily embraced. Scorsese acknowledges that, given the choice, almost everyone would want to be Gordon Gekko… not Bud Fox.
Needing a means to deposit ill-gotten cash into a Swiss bank, he brings Naomi’s not-so-maidenly British aunt (“Absolutely Fabulous’” Joanna Lumley) into the mix, all but putting the make on her too!
Jordan’s bargain with the feds, which saw him ratting out fellow conspirators in exchange for a country-club prison sentence, and subsequent reinvention as an author and motivational speaker recall other crime-to-fame Scorsese finales such as “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy.”
The question with all movies is not how long do they go but how long are they good? “Wolf” is good, in fact, very good — until it goes too long. At 71, Scorsese is still making young men’s movies, which is all well and good. It’s just that at 71 he has forgotten when to sign off.
If the darkly amusing villain he played in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained last year encouraged him to cut loose a bit, The Wolf of Wall Street is his first full-fledged comic turn and DiCaprio demonstrates impeccable timing (just watching him trade verbal volleys with the equally on-his-game Hill, who is clearly improvising a good chunk of his zingers) as well as a heretofore unseen gift for physical comedy (there's a scene involving a Quaalude-tripping Jordan and a set of stairs that would make Charlie Chaplin proud).
So you know you’ve walked into something a little bit different. If you expected a straight dramatic examination of the corporate greed and decadence of the 1980s, “The Wolf of Wall Street” may break your mind. This is sharp, bombastic satire with overt political overtones; over the top, crude, crass, and more than anything, an incredible amount of fun. Working from a script by Terence Winter, based on a book by the real Jordan Belfort, Scorsese uses the same schtick as in “Goodfellas,” the first-person protagonist recounting his meteoric rise from nothing to god-like status, only to experience a precipitous fall.
The FBI has a word to describe “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s overamped, overdone, over everything take on unscrupulous brokers and their standard and poor behavior. It’s “Gre?nada,” as in it’s a no-win situation. Like the overmatched islanders futilely trying to fend off a massive invasion of U.S. troops in 1983, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is trampled by excess. And all you can do is sit back in shock as Scorsese goes down flailing to an embarrassing defeat.
Soaring off the success of “Hugo,” the highest-grossing movie of his illustrious career, Scorsese obviously felt he could do no wrong in bringing Terence Winter’s fact-based take on Wall Street hedonist Jordan Belfort to the screen. So he empties the filmmaking canons of common sense and adopts an anything-goes mentality of turning the amps up to 11 and letting the mountains of coke and skanky hookers fall where they may.
Then too, the film’s shallowness starts nagging at you. The point is long ago made — greed is not so good and in the end everyone, victim and perpetrator alike, suffers.
Although it would be inaccurate to label The Wolf of Wall Street a sequel (direct or spiritual) to Martin Scorsese's modern-day gangster classic, Goodfellas, the connection between the two movies -- as well as the less widely-loved Casino -- is hard to miss. Structurally, for instance, Wolf, which was written by Sopranos heavyweight Terence Winter, follows its predecessor's first-person narrated account of one crook's rise and fall. It even opens with a scene that shows our "hero," dethroned financial king Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who wrote the book on which the movie is based, firmly ensconced in his high-flying lifestyle, followed by a lengthy flashback that shows us how he arrived at that point and then, once we're synced up, carrying his story through to its apocalyptic conclusion. (The exact line that serves as our gateway into the past isn't, "As far back as I remember, I always wanted to be a gangster," -- but it's close.)
More crucially, though, The Wolf of Wall Street suggests that the Wall Street of the '80s and '90s represented the then-present day equivalent of the Mob circa the '50s and '60s when Goodfellas took place. It was a glamorous and closed-off society where ambitious young men (and really, only men were allowed full membership) would go seeking great notoriety and even greater fortune. That's certainly what attracts Jordan to glittering skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan when he first hops off a downtown bus in the late '80s looking to become a made man like his guru, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, in a spectacular, all-too-brief cameo), who gives him a crash course in what it takes to be a success in this brave new world -- a recipe that includes vigorous masturbation, copious drug use and a complete lack of regard for others. And in fact, that's the main thing that separates the predators of New York's financial district from the goons of Brooklyn and Jersey.
Unfortunately for Jordan, he couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and become one of the nattily dressed members of the Wall Street Mafia. Not long after hitting the Street in 1987, the market crashes and he's exiled to Long Island, where he finds the only job available to a broker: pitching worthless and just-this-shy of illegal penny stocks to gullible working-class folks with dollar signs in their eyes and a pronounced lack of sense in their heads. A natural salesman, Belfort quickly rises through the ranks at his podunk operation and leaves to start his own firm, Stratton Oakmont, with the aid of sycophantic cronies like Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). From their humble beginnings in a garage, Stratton eventually becomes a major financial world player by upping its clientele from small fry to bigger fish, lured in by the temptation of major payouts.