Stockbroker Jordan Belfort climbs to the top of the financial tree with little regard for ethics or law in this true life story of the real face of the “American Dream”.
The Wolf Of Wall Street courts comparisons with Goodfellas in both style and substance, but compared to the astonishing rise and rise of Belfort, Henry Hill and company look like seedy, small-timer losers and this is why the film both succeeds and fails simultaneously. In Goodfellas, the consequences of their sociopathic actions always surrounds them; even at their best, Scorsese never lets you forget that these “good fellas” are at their core nasty, self-serving, vicious thugs. The Wolf Of Wall Street on the other hand, with its hilarious excess and supremely charismatic and watchable performance by DiCaprio, can seem like a celebration of greed. I’m sure the point of the exercise was to show how empty and nasty these people were and how the financial system is not only open to abuse but almost welcomes it. But without any of the grim consequences of their actions shown on screen, you can’t help the feeling that there’s a certain admiration for the man at work; greed may not be “good”, but it does “work”. In this way it’s more like Blow where the protagonist seems like a wheeling, dealing entrepreneur rather than a criminal and as such I can see the city types that the film allegedly lambastes admiring him as a character to actually aspire to rather than despise.
As it stands, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a supremely entertaining film but without a stronger moral compass I can’t consider it a great one.