"My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26 I made $49 million dollars which really pissed me off because it was 3 shy of a million a week."
More. More money. More drugs. More sex. More power. More everything. Why? Because more is never enough.
That's the driving philosophy for Jordan Belfort, the over-the-top-thrill-seeking subject of Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. Based on a true story, the film captures Belfort's exploits in the 1990s as a penny stockbroker (AKA swindler) who accumulates so much wealth that he can literally throw around stacks of money without giving it a second thought. Worry not, Belfort has other hobbies too. In between selling pink sheets, he manages to find time to pursue just about any drug and sexual position possible. Yes, there are endless yacht parties, superficial luxuries, hookers, orgies, an infinite supply of booze and sliminess -- but the crowning achievement for keeping company morale high: midget tossing competitions.
Wall Street has never been holy ground, but Belfort takes it to new lows (or is it "highs"?).
For his part, Leonardo DiCaprio allows Belfort's manic energy to possess him and it's exhilarating to watch, much like the rest of the movie. The nearly three hour-long epic is packed with scene-after-scene of some of the greatest debauchery caught on film (set to great music). Each scene trying to outdo itself. Afterwards, you may find yourself in need of a shower. Maybe a cold one.
The worst offense is the rampant, savage murder of money.
Undoubtedly, the film has strong slick style and cinematography, memorable scenes, as well as great, unrestrained performances from the likes of Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey. They find so much off-kilter joy within their characters.
But The Wolf of Wall Street is not a cautionary tale meant for the Belforts of this world. As the FBI closes in, Belfort may unravel a bit. After all, there's a looming threat that he may be removed from his natural habitat. But there's never a glimpse of remorse beyond that of getting caught.
Even that is a walk in the park, considering that Belfort gets to keep his hard-earned cash and is slapped with only a 36-month sentence, during which he gets to improve his back-hand in tennis.
Once he's out, he quickly puts his gift of gab to use again: He becomes a motivational speaker.
Instead of selling penny stocks, he's now shilling the idea that you too can be wealthy, you too can be successful, and you too can take in other suckers. He's not reformed, he's just found a new class of "whales." Those that believe that "greed is good" and that they deserve more. That there's no need to look for happiness -- if you can buy it. That other people's money is out there for the taking, and that they deserve to be fleeced because they are stupid, because they are greedy -- because they are not you.
And guess what? They are packing the auditoriums -- and they are a hungry pack.
What do they want? "The American Dream." More.
Now, sell me this pen.