Ever since the Great Recession of 2009, films about white collar crime have been popular. Some of them, like The Wolf of Wall Street, have been great and others, like The Big Short, have been terrible but one thing that they all have in common is that they’ve all left my very confused.
Seriously, as hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to understand any of this stock market stuff. Why do stocks go up? Why do they go down? Why do people sell them? Why people buy them? What do they get out of it? If you buy a stock and then never sell it, did you just waste a huge chunk of cash? What even is a stock? How can a company have so much stock? Can I sell stock in myself? Seriously, how does it all work?
By that same token, how do you know how much a house is worth? I know that it has to do with how much the house next to your house is worth but who decides how much that house is worth? I’ve seen so many movies about people talking about real estate and insider trading and scampacs and I still don’t understand how any of it works.
Perhaps that’s why I don’t get as outraged as some people do while watching movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. I know some people who walked out of that movie talking about how much they wanted the federal agent played by Kyle Chandler to throw Jordan Belfort (played, in the best performance of his career, by Leonardo Di Caprio) over the side of his boat. Me, I was just happy that Jordan Belfort was able to buy himself a nice boat. He got to hang out with his friends, he got live in a big house, and good for him. I mean, he had fun. We should all be so lucky. The main reason why The Wolf of Wall Street was a thousand times better than The Big Short was because The Wolf of Wall Street was willing to admit that rich people are more fun than poor people. The Wolf of Wall Street made its point with getting bogged down in all of the Marxist argle bargle that other white collar crime films tend to drown in.
Rising High is a German film that is superficially similar to The Wolf of Wall Street. It follows Viktor (David Kross) and Gerry (Frederick Lau) as they make a small fortune through shady real estate deals. Viktor is a smooth-talking salesman while Gerry is a bit rougher around the edges. Basically, Viktor and Gerry get rich selling luxury apartments. The only catch is that they don’t actually own the apartments that they’re selling. Instead, they make bids with money that they don’t have and then they sell the property that they don’t own and then they use the money from the sell to purchase the property. I guess that’s illegal. I mean, Viktor does eventually end up getting arrested and telling the story of the shady ways that he got rich.
Anyway, Viktor’s story is typical of these type of films. He grew up poor. He found a way to make money and ethics be damned, he did what he had to do. Soon, Viktor is married to Nicole (Janina Uhse) and having coke-fueled parties and listening to a lot of music. He also spends a lot of time wondering if he’s allowed his life to get out of control. He may be a white collar criminal but he’s a white collar criminal with a conscience.
Anyway, the main problem with Rising High is that it’s only 94 minutes, which means that the whole story feels somewhat rushed. Viktor goes from being poor to being rich to being incarcerated in record time. Because the film is so rushed, you never really get to explore Viktor’s life. For all the complaints that you may have heard about The Wolf of Wall Street‘s 3-hour running time, it used those three hours to show us why Jordan Belfot and friends were willing to risk going to prison. It showed us their lifestyle and, regardless of whether you liked any of them or not, you understood where their minds were at. In Rising High, Viktor and Gerry are just jerks who get in over their heads. You never really get to know them and even the decadent scenes of their wealthy lives feel as if they were all lifted from other movies. Neither Viktor nor Gerry comes across as being a particularly interesting character so you really don’t care if they end up having to go to jail. If anything, the main message I got from this film is that you should have as much fun as possible before the police show up. If you spend too much time pondering the meaning of it all, you’re going to miss out on some good memories.
Anyway, as far as white collar crime films are concerned, I’m going to stick with The Wolf of Wall Street. Seriously, that was a really nice boat….