I was 22 before I finally saw The Godfather. I previously had no interest in mob movies, mainly because of what I knew about Tommy DeVito, Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas, whose maniacal extortionist with an intolerable sense of entitlement I took to be the genre’s dominant archetype. While it turned out that wasn’t entirely off-base, I was pleased to find many Mafia stories richer than I expected.
Fifteen years later, The Wolf of Wall Street is that unhinged ode to the id I once thought all organized crime movies were. As much as it bears many of the formal hallmarks of a Scorsese classic, it is wall-to-wall nihilism played largely for laughs, and it is filled with dozens upon dozens of Tommy DeVitos. They may not be murderous racketeers, but they are every bit as morally bankrupt and obnoxiously self-obsessed. And for their real-life ringleader, Jordan Belfort, upon whose memoir the film is based, the boisterous chronicle of his outrageous misdeeds that is The Wolf of Wall Street seems designed to be his personal three-hour spank bank. So, yeah, it left a bad taste in my mouth.