Comfortable and Furious

Corporations: Part 6

Jordan Belfort and Mark Hanna in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Averaging nearly three swear words a minute, this is a proper bloke movie that captures masculinity in all its sharp-minded verve and horny, knuckle-dragging contradictions. It’s no doubt what Fight Club (with its pseudo-philosophising) aimed for but fell short.

Stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a self-confessed ‘money-crazed little shit’ from day one. His introduction to the aggressive, drug-fuelled, profanity-laced trading floor is ‘like mainlining adrenalin’. His mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), who occasionally engages in ape-like behavior in upscale restaurants, quickly keys him in by revealing no one knows whether a stock is gonna go up or down, but the aim of the game is to move the punter’s money into your pocket. He also advises regular masturbation and cocaine use. “You gotta feed the geese to keep the blood flowing… When you get really good at it, you’ll be stroking it and thinking about money… Cocaine keeps you sharp between the ears and makes your fingers dial faster.”

With these nuggets of wisdom safely tucked away, Belfort becomes a silver-tongued bullshit artist and master manipulator with an undeniable flair for parting gullible people from their money. This skill is only matched by the outright contempt he has for them and an insatiable yen for drugs, sex and status symbols. Such is the depth of his addiction to fucking people’s wallets and having caviar licked off his balls that 1987’s Black Friday, the largest stock market crash in nearly six decades, proves only a minor obstacle in his otherwise upward trajectory.

Before long he’s rebounded and founded Stratton Oakmont, a company that’s ‘a madhouse, a greedfest, with equal parts cocaine, testosterone and body fluids.’ Here we get midget-tossing; a chimp on roller-skates; bellowing men with baseball bats doing Tarzan impersonations; strippers and champagne; live goldfish consumption; and a secretary financing DD breast implants by agreeing to have her head publicly shaved. 

The obnoxious Belfort is so successful that he can vacation at a choice of holiday homes when not enjoying blowjobs zooming along the highway in his white Ferrari. It’s a seductive portrait of extreme corporate behavior and, I’m sad to say, nothing like the sedate, beige offices I inhabited during my comparatively dull life. I mean, none of the places I ever worked at had signs in the bathroom declaring it a ‘fuck-free zone’ between 9am and 7pm. Frankly, I would love to be such a bad boy that one day I ended up hurling lobsters at my straight-laced enemies from the deck of my 170-foot yacht.

The blackly comic, defiantly non-PC Wolf turned out to be Scorsese’s biggest hit. It’s overlong and not as good as Wall Street, but its sheer immersion in excess and the eyebrow-raisingly sympathetic depiction of Belfort ensure it needs to be seen. Not only does Wolf not give a fuck about the man’s many victims, it can’t even be bothered to tell their side of the story. This might sound like a criticism, but I enjoy movies like Wolf because they credit the viewer with being able to see Belfort and his kin are superficial cunts while taking it for granted that their prey suffer great hardship (although, of course, idiots who hand over a chunk of their savings to cold callers do deserve a bit of scorn).

Scorsese was right to concentrate on Belfort’s avaricious activities and ignore those he duped because (as a rule of thumb) predators make interesting viewing and victims don’t. Christ, it’s boring listening to limp-wristed fucks trotting around on their high horses bleating about Wolf’s relentless profanity, toxic masculinity and the glamorization of the traders’ selfish, high-octane lives. Such objections are so predictable, never daring to take into account that an awful lot of men would love to walk for a month or two in Belfort’s Italian handmade shoes.

What’s more, I don’t want movies to beat me over the head with morals or to place me in the crosshairs of the correct ‘message’. Do we really want to return to those preachy flicks from the first half of the twentieth century in which we’re told crime doesn’t pay? Hell, I’d rather be entertained by Belfort in his disgusting pomp. After all, isn’t that why cinemagoers hand over their money? To be fucking well entertained?






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