‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013) might have been the first mainstream pornographic masterpiece. The story of Jordan Belfort’s adventures and misadventures in the greedy 80s needed its protagonist to be a hard core Gulliver adrift in a sea of sexual and sensory excess. It needed the decadence to be graphic and real. We needed to see the labia and the epithelium. We needed to feel the pain and pleasure of drug-fuelled coitus. We needed to see the degradation and desperation of the unemployed and the evicted as The Wall Street gluttons gorged themselves on anything and anybody within reach. ‘La Grande Bouffe’ meets ‘Wall Street’ meets ‘Boogie Nights; meets ‘Fear and Loathing’ in a private booth with a box of tissues nearby.
It needed an Andy Warhol or a Kenneth Anger to deliver on its orgiastic promise. Instead we got a jaded Martin Scorsese. And we got naked women but no naked men. No courage and no conviction. Hollywood production code morality. ‘Cunt’ and ‘cock’ in the script but not on the screen – except some long-shot pudenda – and I use ‘pudenda’ deliberately – because it was a shame. A great shame. And so the sex scenes and nudity seemed merely arbitrary, gratuitous and therefore, embarrassing. More embarrassing than those in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’. Especially the gay orgy which seemed to be in the movie for no other reason than it could be. Or maybe because Martin thought he was making a black comedy.
There are, of course, a few whizz bangs. Di Caprio’s selling hype to his assembled sales force and a sea storm enveloping the Wolf’s luxury cruiser are well managed and memorable. Most of it though, is predictable and boring. If you’ve seen ‘Scarface‘, ‘Blow’ and the movies mentioned earlier, you’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it done better. Scorsese’s powers are failing. ‘Shine A Light’ and ‘Shutter Island’ and now this. Even the soundtrack sucks. A lazy collection of mostly blues standards and random covers that bear no particular relation to place, time or action. Slick editing just means the lumps of disappointment don’t choke you.