Jordan Belfort struts around his East Coast boiler room defiant. He’s a double-breasted Duce posing on the balcony, milking rapturous applause from his merry band of fucking idiots. “Stratton Oakmont IS America!” he screams arms outstretched, adored. The FBI barbarians are at the gates of his new Roman Empire, ready to raze it to the ground. Belfort’s brokers are outraged because Belfort’s America is a fraudulent fuck fest, built on worthless stocks and shares, outrageous bonuses, a Bacchanalia awash with hookers, supercars, super yachts and super doses of hard, hard drugs. This is Jordan’s America and he doesn’t want to go down without a fucking fight!
“Let me tell you something,” rasps Jordan, “there’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.” Rich for Jordan means being free to crash your helicopter into your sprawling Hamptons estate, blowing coke where the sun don’t shine and screwing money from any investor dumb enough to listen to his well drilled sales patter. As a rookie stockbroker Jordan learnt from the best, taken under the claw of reptilian moneyman Mark Hanna. Hanna has the smooth delivery of an international arms dealer, “The name of the game, moving the money from the client’s pocket to your pocket.”
Hanna’s enunciation is pitch perfect and Jordan’s lupine senses don’t miss a single beat. We see him transform into “The Wolf of Wall Street” before our very eyes, howling under a moon full of money, a Quaalude lycanthrope cast free from taking any responsibility for his midnight activities. Jordan feels justified, exonerated that he’s from a working class background (well one born of middle class accountants), taking down the Harvard elite at their own game. As far as he’s concerned, Jordan is melting down their silver spoons, turning them into bullets and shooting them into his own heart to prove how invincible he is-but it still isn’t enough, “The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.”
His greed knows no bounds and we should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves for willing Jordan on and on and on in Martin Scorsese’s epic tale of debauchery-but we’re not. We’re swept up by the tidal wave of filth, by the sheer balls out bravura filmmaking, by the fact we’re watching an uproarious true story of Caligula proportions, “Pain and Gain” and “Spring Breakers” don’t even come close. “Goodfellas” and “Casino” for all of their slick genius were mere proving grounds for “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Scorsese’s direction has the free wheeling spirit of an old master who couldn’t care less about moral responsibility. If we’re honest wouldn’t we like to do the same from time to time? And why shouldn’t we root for Jordan Belfort? After all we rooted for Henry Hill and Ace Rothstein back in the 90s.
And then there’s gorgeous, darling, degenerate Leo shoving his best ever performance down our throats. He addresses the camera directly, wolf eyes glinting, “On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens for a month. I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my “back pain”, Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine… Well, because it’s awesome.” His physicality is like rocket-fuel, the kind we haven’t seen since he destroyed us as Jim Carroll in “The Basketball Diaries,” a supercharged, very dark comic genius spewing forth, a drunk Cary Grant in “North by Northwest” for the 21st century.
Yes, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is reprehensible but enjoy the ride whilst its still on offer as Marty wont be around forever. Yes the hangover will be painful and sodden with guilt but you’ll be in esteemed company, Jonah Hill as Jordan’s laser toothed sparing partner Donnie Azoff , Margot Robbie as his second wife Naomi, Mathew McConaughey imperious as Mark Hanna, Kyle Chandler the straight shooting Agent Patrick Denham who spoils the fun and Rob Reiner as Jordan’s furious, “Equalizer” loving dad Max Belfort. Terence Winter of “Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” fame fires his dialogue like a machine gun so we’ll leave the last word on America to Jordan, “My Ferrari was white like Don Johnson’s in Miami Vice, not red.”