“The Wolf of Wall Street” is neither overwrought nor understated. It is instead exactly as it is supposed to be: cinematic cocaine, adrenaline, and Qualuudes all rolled into one three-hour filmic blast, starring Leonardo DiCaprio at his best performance as a sick, infantile man who only wanted to get rich. And hey, that’s all that matters in life.
What viewers seem to have reacted to the most was the intensity and excessiveness that forms the very core of fast money and an utter disregard for who gets hurt. But that was the point: what many see as excess is really a warped and twisted vision of success that symbolizes the rot at the foundation of everything people do not like about the prevailing economic order. Not that much can be done about that, so why fight it and join in. You, too, will strike it rich! Call now.
Seen another way, this orgiastic and terrifying masterpiece by Martin Scorcese is the story of heavy-handed government agents who set out to take down the last honest salesman left, a greedy animal who bullshits everyone, even himself, but not the audience. Their reflection stares back, agape, at them in the last frame, suspended in midair . . . flying across the Atlantic in a money-laundering spree fueled by more coke and more hookers and enough lust for cold cash and hot trim to make Gordon Gekko and Croesus blush.
The scene on his boat, named after his trophy wife, when the anti-hero protagonist Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) contemptuously talks down to the visiting FBI agents was a brilliant touch when in the midst of his pseudo-bribe, Belfort mentions “collateralized debt obligations” just a stone’s throw away, presaging a looming crisis that will do far more damage than his boiler room ever did.
The brusqueness of his treatment toward these public servants is belied by the subtlety at play by Scorcese, who masterfully hints that the bigger criminals are safe in their glass canyons.