The Wolf of Wall Street Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenwriter: Terence Winter
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner Paramount Pictures
Rated R | 179 Minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2013
Leonardo DiCaprio has collaborated with Martin Scorsese in four of the director’s last five films (Shutter Island, The Departed, The Aviator, and Gangs of New York).
Of those films, three were nominated for Best Picture and Best Director (The Departed – which took home both statues – The Aviator, and Gangs of New York).
The Leo-Marty partnership has been a successful one. With The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio teams up with the Goodfellas director for the fifth time, playing New York stock swindler Jordan Belfort.
Written by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), the film is based on Belfort’s memoir of the same name and co-stars Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey.
Hookers! Cocaine! Quaaludes! This balls-out black comedy is a compelling portrait of hedonism, drugs, and the power of the almighty dollar. The excess of excess on display in The Wolf of Wall Street is precisely the point – a film that is as indulgent as its main character.
It’s 1987 and DiCaprio’s Belfort is a rookie stockbroker on Wall Street. After learning the ways of the Force from his mentor (McConaughey), Belfort soon subscribes to a lavish lifestyle complete with martini lunches, prostitutes, and mountains of cocaine.
Tired of making money for other people, Belfort befriends businessman Donnie Azoff (Hill) and establishes Stratton Oakmont, a brokerage firm which functions as a boiler room, selling penny stocks and defrauding investors. The firm becomes a billion-dollar company, and Belfort becomes an evil Bruce Wayne – buying up exotic sports cars, helicopters, and yachts and throwing wild parties at his palatial mansion.
His activities soon attract the attention of FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), but Belfort is invincible – too big to fail – and dismisses the FBI as little more than an annoyance. Pride goes before destruction, of course, and instead of cooperating with the FBI’s investigation, Belfort descends further into a drug-fueled madness.
I’ve always thought of Leonardo DiCaprio as a fine actor, but his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street is without question the best work of his career. As Jordan Belfort, DiCaprio is completely unhinged – a brash, boastful swindler who devolves into a cocaine-snorting, pill-popping greed monster. Equally impressive is Jonah Hill, who proves his Supporting Actor nomination for Moneyball wasn’t just a fluke. In dad jeans with a sweater tied around his neck, Hill’s Azoff is one of this year’s most hilarious cinematic sidekicks – I just couldn’t get enough of his gravely Long Island accent and his lack of impulse control.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a three-hour bacchanal with more cocaine than Scarface, more orgies than Caligula, and more feckless dum-dums than The Bling Ring. Scorsese’s biting satire is funny, shocking, and exceedingly filthy. It’s impressive that, at 71, Scorsese is still the kind of punk rock filmmaker who isn’t afraid to offend genteel expectations and sensibilities.
Some people will say that David O’ Russell’s American Hustle was the better “Scorsese film” of 2013, but while Hustle zips along with the same kind of kinetic energy Scorsese brings to every film he directs, the film lacks bite. The Wolf of Wall Street, on the other hand, is a raging middle finger to the status quo – a film with over-the-top performances and a story that is so unbelievable, so unrestrained and excessive, that it feels like American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman wrote a memoir and let Tony Montana direct it.
PS: If you seriously think The Wolf of Wall Street glorifies obnoxious psychopaths indulging to excess, watch an episode of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills…