Genre: Biography, Comedy, Crime
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey
The Wolf of Wall Street contains 506 uses of the F-word over its 179 minute running time, which equates to 2.83 uses of the word per minute. On paper it looks like a lot and it is, yet despite the large amount of media coverage surrounding the consistent use of said expletive, you will barely notice it when sitting in the cinema. Martin Scorsese has always been at his pinnacle as an auteur when telling true stories of larger-than-life characters and from the moment we are introduced to Jordan Belfort, this cinematic master will have you engrossed in his tale of unimaginable debauchery.
Belfort is the eponymously titled Wall Street broker who made $49 million the year he turned 26; “which really pissed me off at it was 3 shy of a million a week” he quips towards the start. During the 80s & 90s, Belfort built up a brokerage firm that dominated Wall Street and made a legend of its infamous owner. Wild parties, excessive drug taking and multiple hookers became the cornerstones of Belfort’s life, as his unwavering voracity eventually led him to a life of crime and corruption. Like Scorsese’s finest films to date, The Wolf of Wall Street presents us with a world that is irresistibly exciting to begin with, but becomes all the more intolerable the further you are drawn in.
At its raucous centre is Leonardo DiCaprio, who continues to display extraordinary versatility as an actor. Since reading Belfort’s book back in 2007, The Wolf of Wall Street has been a passion project for DiCaprio and his unashamed embodiment of such a despicable character makes for an eminently magnetic central performance. Scorsese’s focused storytelling allows for a well-rounded expose of a lifestyle driven by a thirst for wealth, with DiCaprio’s balanced performance capturing the glamour of Belfort’s rise and his ignominious fall from grace. In a world still reeling from the aftershock of a global financial crisis, it’s near impossible for audiences to feel compassion towards such a greed-driven figure and yet you can’t help but be swept up in Belfort’s company; his addictive personality and oozing confidence being consistently infectious.
The partnership between Scorsese and writer Terence Winter has already blossomed on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and their distinctive talents effortlessly merge on the big screen. The mammoth running time may be too much for some, but the breakneck pace means you’re unlikely to notice it. Winter’s screenplay is one peppered with wit that draws exceptional performances from its cast. Jonah Hill continues to display astounding talent for mixing comedy and drama, while a hilarious Rob Reiner offers standout support as Belfort short-tempered father.
It’s not all fun and games though; Scorsese is a director who equally revels in showing the darker side of his character’s story, personified here in the relationship between Belfort and his wife Naomi. Margot Robbie’s sizzling performance stands strong next to DiCaprio as we see their relationship flourish towards marriage. But, as with Goodfellas, it’s when the conflict of our antihero’s life eventually leads to embittered marital battles that the film takes on a truly dark edge. Robbie’s expert crafting of her role draws strong emotional empathy during the film’s final third; the pain behind her eyes as she faces the reality of just how much of a monster her husband has become is distressingly honest.
At the ripe age of 71, Scorsese shows no signs of slowing down, with The Wolf of Wall Street likely to be marked by many as his finest work since Goodfellas. Behind the camera, he draws you in to a world of extravagance, headed by an Oscar-worthy performance from Leonardo DiCaprio that huffs and puffs before blowing the roof off of the cinema. In the simplest terms, it’s f**king brilliant!