Congratulations! You’re reading my first R-rated review. That is to say, this is the first time I’ve reviewed a film restricted to cinemagoers over the age of 18. My reticence shouldn’t surprise Christians; the ‘R’ is generally handed out for very good reason. So you may be asking yourself, “Why is this article even here?” Simply put, I’m hoping you won’t make the mistake I made.
I was so taken in by the pedigree of The Wolf Of Wall Street – starring Leonardo Di Caprio, directed by Martin Scorsese, based on a true story about a New York conman – that I didn’t see the mutt for its fleas. And, on reflection, it seemed reasonable to me that what could happen to a film reviewer might also happen to a film viewer. So, just in case you’re also wondering, “How bad could it be?” let me save you the trouble of finding out…
The Wolf Of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who founded the firm Stratton Oakmont. During the 1990’s the film shows Belfort involved in a number of trades that skate the edge of legality before finally masterminding several pump-and-dump, money laundering and fraudulent stock schemes. Di Caprio displays all the acting talent of a young Jack Nicholson as he presents us with his version of hero’s manic, self-serving life. Jordan engages in pastimes that reflect his risky businesses practices, drowning himself in drugs, alcohol and prostitutes on every occasion. He and his partners transform his offices into the Wall Street equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the height of his success Belfort employed hundreds of stockbrokers who were enamored by his wealth-driven philosophy:
“There is no nobility in poverty because I’ve been a rich man and I’ve been a poor man – and I choose rich. Because if you have problems at least you turn up in the back of a limo. I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich!”
But The Wolf Of Wall Street styles itself as a morality tale and, following the events of Belfort’s life, the hero is eventually indicted for his many crimes. But the message the film leaves you with is mirky at best. Rather than settling on the obvious, ‘Money makes a bad god’ the story hangs on long enough to suggest the more morally ambivalent, ‘People like Belfort are a product of our own insatiable greed.”
Now, truthfully, either lesson would be worth contemplating. In fact the first was the theme of Wall Street and the second its sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. But Scorsese’s delivery obscures any possible benefit. The level of sexual content is so high it could easily be considered pornography – frequent and explicit sexual acts involving full-frontal nudity for both sexes – making me wonder constantly how it managed to avoid an X rating. The language is just as foul and the indulgent portrayal of Belfort’s decadence makes it hard to imagine that the film is condemning anything more than the way its hero went about gaining his wealth.
The moral conscience of the film is supplied by Belfort’s father, played by Rob Reiner. Stunned by his son’s self-indulgence, Max turns up at Jordan’s office to deliver an unheeded warning:
Max: One day these chickens are going to come home to roost.
Jordan: I know, it’s crazy out there.
Max: Crazy? It’s obscene.
– and that could equally serve as the verdict for The Wolf Of Wall Street. However many awards it may pick up, however loud the praise or shiny the accolades, it’s obscene. Save yourself the walk out by choosing not to walk in.
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Release Date:January 23