Martin Scorsese

The Riot Club

Released 2014. Directed by Lone Scherfig. Screenplay by Laura Wade, adapted from her play, Posh. Starring Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Sam Reid.

Spoilers in the review, folks. Don’t fret, I’ll pay for the damage.

I once heard it said that all American stories are about race, while all British stories are about class. If there’s truth to that aphorism – and I think there is – then The Riot Club might be seen as an attempt to deliver the ne plus ultra of the British story. It articulates a hatred between quote-unquote “poor people” (also known as ‘the majority of the UK’) and the Bullingdon Club elite: the hatred of the poor coming from the characters; the hatred of the gentry coming from the film. It’s been an issue since long before I was born, but one which has experienced a surge in familiarity in the public consciousness since former Bullingdon Club member David Cameron took leadership of the Conservative Party. What’s different here is that it’s not dealt with as subtext or a secondary theme, as is typical. It’s actually quite remarkable and energising to see such a direct portrayal of a class distinction of which the entire country is aware and on which most people would surely declare an opinion, if not allegiance. The Riot Club attacks its theme from point-blank range…

… and yet it still manages to miss.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

Released 2014. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay by Terence Winter, based on the book of the same name by Jordan Belfort. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie.

As ever, the ending of this film is discussed here, as are other things you might not want revealed. So really you should just go and see it, because it’s absolutely brilliant, then come back and read this.

There’s a moment in The Wolf of Wall Street that made my heart briefly stop. In the three hours of fabulously kinetic pandemonium, it might be easy to ignore, but it struck me deeply. Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, is under investigation by the SEC and FBI, who are interviewing its senior management. It’s predictable that these executives will be uncooperative, but the first time one of them uttered the phrase, “I do not recall”, I sat bolt upright. “I do not recall.” Those four words define the untouchable safety in which the world’s most powerful people live, and the impotence of the legal and judicial systems in attempting to investigate their wrongdoing. The US is most familiar with them with regards to the 2008 financial crisis and collapse of several financial institutions; those in the UK will have vivid memories of its repeated use by the newspaper industry in deflecting questions about its ethical and legal misconduct. Those four words are the catchphrase of the rich and powerful when caught, a magic incantation that disappears severe repercussions. Their use in The Wolf of Wall Street made me realise, for the first time, that these people are real.

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