The Wolf Of Wall Street: Film review - greed is still good for Martin Scorsese

(18) Dir. Martin Scorsese; Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, 180mins

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The Independent Culture

Martin Scorsese's 21st feature film is his flashiest and most invigorated work in years, and his funniest ever. It is adapted from an apparently unrepentant tell-all memoir by Jordan Belfort, the founder of an upstart stockbrokerage firm (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who, before he was eventually brought low by an FBI investigation in the late Nineties, amassed more wealth than Croesus would have known what to do with.

Belfort, though, had a talent for conspicuous consumption. Indeed, he says as much when rationalising the fact that his business preyed on gullible investors: "Their money was better off in my pocket – I knew how to spend it better."

The Wolf of Wall Street, accordingly, is an exhausting three-hour audiovisual bacchanalia of sex and drugs and obscene wealth, prostitutes and strippers, yachts and helicopters, drugs, sex and more drugs, which fully earns its 18 certificate and makes Baz Luhrmann's recent 3D Great Gatsby look like a Merchant-Ivory film.

The way Scorsese's camera tracks along a line of cocaine as it's being snorted, or swoops over a trading-room floor, gives the audience just the sort of dizzying rush that Belfort is talking about when he says that making money feels "like mainlining adrenaline".

Indeed, it's Scorsese's talent for filming subjective viewpoints that makes The Wolf of Wall Street as potent and as disconcerting as it is. As in Goodfellas and Casino, and again with the use of a conspiratorial voiceover, charismatic actors and an exquisitely eclectic jukebox soundtrack, he aligns the audience in such a way that we appreciate on a visceral level the appeal of reckless outlaw behaviour.

On only one or two very brief occasions do we get to see outside of Belfont's worldview. Which is why, in a certain light, The Wolf of Wall Street might be misread as a celebration of unfettered capitalism.

But in the same way that the violence in Scorsese's gangster films becomes sickening, so too does the misanthropy, misogyny and naked self-interest in this one. If you find yourself enjoying it too much, you either already work in cut-throat finance or should probably consider a career move.