‘Greed is good’ is the mantra throughout Martin Scorsese’s highly entertaining but morally dubious look at the life of Jordan Belfort; boozer, womaniser, pill-popper, conman extraordinaire and perfect subject for the talents of one Mr Leonardo DiCaprio.
Based on Belfort’s own take on his colourful life, The Wolf is the story of the loadsamoney! culture of the 1980s and 90s which saw a raft of wide boys persuade ordinary, decent people to part with their money on hopeless business ventures, in the process of making themselves exceedingly rich.
Like Gordon Gekko, Belfort (DiCaprio) made turning on the charm into an art form, even persuading his wife’s upper class English auntie (a lovely turn from Joanna Lumley) to smuggle money to Switzerland in order for him to evade revenue inspectors. Belfort’s only problem – apart from the fact he could quite easily have killed himself by overdosing many times over – was he was making too much money and when the Feds got on his case, he had to come up with ever more elaborate schemes to siphon it off and hide it.
Inevitably, he comes a cropper, but before he does so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the antics of Belfort and his buddies, led by chief rabble-rouser Donnie (Jonah Hill). However, even as you laugh yourself silly as they get wasted on Quaaludes, crash their expensive cars and lead the Feds a merry dance, there is the feeling in the background that this isn’t right; that such decadence and ruthless pursuit of wealth does have victims — it’s just we never see them. Even the two characters who do have moral fibre – Belfort’s first wife and the chief agent on his case (the excellent Kyle Chandler, almost reprising the role he played in Parkland) are seen as somehow spoilsports and losers.
The only other minor quibble with the film is its excessive running time which will definitely leave you with a numb behind, but in all other respects director Martin Scorsese is really on the money (sorry) with a film that runs as smoothly as Belfort’s yacht (until it gets wrecked – a bit like his life).
This is bold and brassy filmmaking, as sleek as a Ferrari and absolutely reeking of testosterone, with a bravura performance from DiCaprio who seems to be enjoying a golden period at present.
Just don’t start thinking about all those poor suckers who paid for this lifestyle and its obscene excesses.