In what is the fifth project from the dream team of Martin Scorsese and his muse Leonardo DiCaprio, they present ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’; an epic retelling of the stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. It follows the rises and falls of the exuberant entrepreneur in Wall Street throughout the late eighties and early nineties as well as the highs and lows in his turbulent social life. Leo produces and stars as Belfort alongside Jonah Hill as his friend and business partner, Donnie Azoff. Scorsese is arguably better known for his past glories rather than his more recent works but here, he is back to his best. His direction is fresh and energetic and his trademark style is taken to another level, which is complimented by Terence Winter’s jet-black comedic script, and of course the astounding central performances.
We have everything you would expect from a Marty film and more, from the troubled lead to the trophy wife blond, and technically, from the use of slow motion to the pop-rock soundtrack and velvety smooth voice-over narration. Belfort’s big personality fills the screen and he guides you through his methods of corruption, breaking through the fourth wall and boasting to the audience about how much money he has, loving every minute of it. Some may protest that this glamourises his deception, taking from the poor to fund his excessive drug and alcohol habits but Scorsese rarely makes films about good honourable men, or role models, so why would this be any different now? Personally, I am more drawn to villains than heroes which is possibly why his work appeals to me so much.
When Belfort’s illegal activities catch up with him, and his home life descends into chaos, we see the creative techniques cleverly become distorted. For example, Belfort’s adversaries grow internal monologues to combat his, and in one scene, his wife openly responds to a thought in his head. It is these small but effective innovations that make this film so refreshing and exciting to watch as it is impossible to predict which trick the crafty filmmaker will pull off next.
Leo DiCaprio has a history of playing deeply conflicted men, disturbed by past traumas, and he is also no stranger to playing wealthy men. Tackling Jordan Belfort combines these qualities, like Gatsby crossed with a monster, a wolf in designer clothing, and even though the character himself may be incredibly shallow and materialistic, DiCaprio’s performance has layers upon layers and has moments which show off his talent in a whole new light. Cool on the outside, calculating on the inside, Leo captures the money-hungry persona and takes us through a whirlwind of emotion with him. His sheer charisma is extraordinary and his on-screen relationships with co-stars are great.
When next to Jonah Hill, they are both hilarious and bring the dark dialogue to fruition in flowing conversation. Leo rarely shows his capacity for comedy but bouncing off Hill’s excellent improv-chops, he is very good. Donnie, the bespectacled motor mouth with a taste for crack serves as a creditable sidekick to Jordan and despite his controversial philosophies and questionable morals, he is wickedly funny and I am a big fan of the character. Belfort’s reactions to Azoff’s outlandish comments are fantastic, as is his two-hander scene with Matthew McConaughey where the camera zones in on a young Belfort’s naive awe-struck expressions as eccentric stocks boss Mark Hanna takes him under his wing and delivers a motivational introduction into Wall Street leading to a mad chest-pumping chant which you will no doubt find yourself humming days later. In contrast to this, his chemistry with stunning newcomer Margot Robbie is intense. Scorsese has a knack for directing arguments and reminds us with a few brilliant confrontations between Belfort and fiery wife number two Naomi Lapaglia.
At a whopping three hour running time, this film is packed with money, fun, drugs, sex, jokes and more drugs and is, in a way, a gangster flick – but where the power is greed, and the guns and fedoras are exchanged for briefcases and braces. It is long without becoming overlong but the length does result in some frenetic editing which crams everything into a suitable cinema duration. I couldn’t get enough and when the original four hour cut featured on the hard copy release hits the shelves, I will be first in line to indulge in the extended version. The Wolf provides only further proof of the genius of Martin Scorsese that in unfortunately nearing the end of his filmmaking career, he can still create a masterpiece worthy of his prime.