Every now and then a story comes along that is just too good for Hollywood to pass on. Jordan Belfort has such a story. In the 1990s, he founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont which functioned as a boiler room marketing penny stocks, where he defrauded investors with fraudulent stock sales. During his years as a stock swindler, Belfort developed a partying lifestyle, which included a serious addiction to Quaaludes. Stratton Oakmont employed over 1,000 stock brokers and was involved in stock issues totaling more than $1 billion, including an equity raising for footwear company Steve Madden Ltd. Belfort was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering. After cooperating with the FBI, he served 22 months in federal prison for a pump and dump scheme, which resulted in investor losses of approximately $200 million.
The life of Jordan Belfort and the rise and eventual fall of his company has now found its way to the silver screen with the help acclaimed director Martin Scorsese and baby-face actor Leonardo DiCaprio. There are, of course, more actors in the movie – there are even a lion and a monkey, much to the annoyance of PETA – but DiCaprio stars as Belfort himself.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a black comedy movie. This does not mean there are any African-American stand up performances, it means that The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie with humor that “makes light of otherwise serious subject matter”. And it does the black humor great at times, I found myself laughing more than I’ve sometimes laughed at other movies that were just about the comedy. Not all the humor is in the dialogue, though. For me, the funniest part was a 5 minute, far from politically correct, slapstick segment. What happens, I’ll let you find out yourself, let’s just say that ‘ludes that are past they expiration date should be handled with extreme care.
So the movie is funny, but it certainly doesn’t keep it up for the rather long three hours the movie lasts. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of those movies that probably could have been an even better movie if it was an hour shorter. The reason it drags out for three hours is that Scorsese tries to make the movie funny through the use of lengthy, Tarantino-style conversations. Tarantino’s dialogues are often very entertaining in a Tarantino-funny way, but it just doesn’t work that well for Scorsese. Don’t get me wrong, many, if not most, of Scorsese’s movies are all about the non-funny dialogue, and he does that very well, but the long conversations in The Wolf of Wall Street just don’t strike me as very entertaining. It might, of course, be that knee-slapping conversations was not what Scorsese was aiming for, but in a dark humor movie, I would expect at least some of the longer exchanges to strike my funny bone more than they did.
But that is the only complaints I have when it comes to The Wolf of Wall Street: It’s could have been funnier, and it should have been shorter. Both could have been solved in the edition room. That apart, it’s pretty much a great movie, certainly worth the money. I’m sure the real Jordan Belfort made a pretty penny on the expensive movie ticket as well and it’s certainly money that will come in handy: The sentencing agreement mandates a total of $110 million in restitution. Good luck with that, Jordan!