The Wolf of Wall Street (18)
- Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau, Jon Bernthal, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Ethan Suplee
- Director: Martin Scorsese
- Duration: 180 mins
- Year: 2013
In the aftermath of Black Monday, Jordan Belfort loses his job at a well-established firm and is forced to work his way up from the bottom, selling penny stocks at a firm in Long Island. Blessed with the gift of the gab, Jordan decides to open his own firm, Stratton Oakmont, with salesman Donnie Azoff. The business goes from strength to strength, attracting the attention of tenacious FBI Agent Patrick Denham, who resolves to bring down Jordan and his booze- and coke-fuelled inner circle.
Alison Rowat's Review
Having played two emperors of overindulgence in the past year, first Jay Gatsby and now a Wall Street stockbroker up to his oxters in cocaine and hookers, Id like to think Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting at home right now perusing pamphlets on Trappist monasteries and eating gruel. Then again, perhaps not. No-one having this much fun at work is thinking about a career change.
Never mind DiCaprio. The question is, will you too have a blast watching this three-hour, excess-all-areas, expletive-strewn biopic of a spoilt brat whose lifestyle made the last days of the Roman Empire look like a parent-teacher meeting?
Not that everyone has appreciated the joke behind Martin Scorseses picture, or they have seen the joke and are not amused. There was much tutting on the films US release that it was gratuitously overblown, overlong, and not over-keen in condemning the scummy adventures of Jordan Belfort, the real-life Wolf of Wall Street, as labelled by Forbes magazine.
It is certainly long and repetitive. So much must have been spent on baking soda (to double as cocaine), dwarves (to throw) and sharp suits that there was no money left over to buy anyone a watch. As for appearing to celebrate rather than condemn Belfort and his ilk, that is a trickier one. The film is based on Belforts memoir, a toilet paper effort if ever there was one, and he makes a brief appearance in the movie. From this we can assume that he was not exactly hostile to the portrait.
On the whole, though, I would say Scorseses no holds barred tone is just about right. As you may have noticed, the so-called masters of the universe who brought about a global recession did not exactly slink off into the sunset and die of shame. Bailed out by the taxpayer, they got away with the greatest rock and roll swindle of all. If there is any message to be taken away from The Wolf of Wall Street, it is that those financial mobsters who exploited the system, and investors greed, are not likely to go away. The system breeds them. The party goes on, albeit at a more muted volume.
When first we meet Belfort (DiCaprio) he is 26 years old and making $46 million a year. Scorsese, working from a firecracker of a script by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos), zips back to the start of the young bucks days on Wall Street. His mentor (Matthew McConaughey) puts the youngster straight about the business. Stockbroking is about making money for yourself. If the client benefits, thats just a bonus. Having introduced Belfort to one drug, making money, he adds a few more for good measure.
From there we stay with Belfort through some early lows and many highs. As he branches out on his own and starts his own brokerage firm, complete with Jonah Hill as his deputy, Belfort finds the money pouring in. Is it all legal and ethical? What do you think? He has started out selling penny stocks to small investors, garbage to garbage men on huge commissions. The same magazine profile that dubbed him the Wolf of Wall Street calls him a twisted Robin Hood taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich (himself and his staff). The offices will get bigger, the clients richer, but Belfort will always be the guy coming out on top.
Scorsese, DiCaprio and Hill go to town with the excess. You can either laugh or feel disgusted, or perhaps do both at the same time. This is a mans world, where women are wives or hookers, or on the odd occasion hard-faced brokers. It is noticeable that, a few scenes aside, it is the women doing the heavy lifting when it comes to the sex and nude scenes. The language, too, could strip paint from a battleship. The F-bomb count has been put at 506, making it, in the words of one newspaper, the most obscene movie of all time.
But this is also Scorseses world, a wildly enjoyable three-hour romp through his cinematic concerns, tropes and greatest hits. Check out those nods to Goodfellas, The Departed, Casino, The Aviator, Boardwalk Empire, even Mean Streets and the Gangs of New York (was there ever a meaner street than Wall Street?).
Consider his chewing over of what America is, and where it is heading. After that comes his beloved music. From Bo Diddley to Billy Joel, every track is a winner.
For all that it is hopelessly baggy in parts some scenes play as though the camera was simply pointed in direction of the actors and left running while everyone else went off for lunch I cannot honestly say I was bored. Appalled, intrigued, amused, sickened, but never bored.
Scorsese and DiCaprio have now made five films together, and this is on a par with The Departed as their finest collaboration. Scorsese supplies the landscape and DiCaprio blows through the picture like a hurricane. It is quite the sight to behold. One staggers away from the experience feeling a little older, none the wiser, but hugely entertained.
Paul Greenwood's Review
Some directors spend their careers essentially making the same film over and over again, but thats really not an accusation that could be levelled at Martin Scorsese, particularly in recent years.
And yet here he is with his new film, pungent biographical comedy The Wolf of Wall Street, a film that, structurally, thematically and formally is as close to a remake of Goodfellas as you could imagine. And wouldnt you know it, its also his best film since Goodfellas.
In fact its Goodfellas meets Glengarry Glen Ross on Wall Street. Instead of mid-level mafia hoods as the characters being explored, its high-flying financial investors, but the key connection is that theyre every bit as big a bunch of criminals.
Based on the memoir of disgraced former stockbroker Jordan Belfort, it opens with Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) fronting a TV advert asserting the wholesomeness of his brokerage, Stratton Oakmont.
But we quickly discover the truth behind this veneer of respectability. Excess everything is the order of the day at Stratton Oakmont; money, drugs, sex, throwing dwarves at giant dartboards. Jordan himself is earning $50m a year, and is under investigation by the FBI as he talks straight to camera about how awesome his life is.
To fill us in on how he got here, we head back to the 80s when he was making his start as a young man on Wall Street, working for Matthew McConaughey, who explains to him the intangible nature of what they do, and that money, money and more money is the reason they do it.
After the crash of 1987, on his first day as a broker no less, he starts again with a small firm before heading out on his own, joined by the equally ambitious Donnie (Jonah Hill). Their workplace, and this film, is a morals-free zone, populated by scumbags happily taking money from people who think theyre buying into some get rich quick scheme.
And yet for all that these are truly despicable people, its mesmerising to watch. As Jordan explains to us in one of his regular asides to camera, we probably dont understand what hes up to, and in fact it doesnt matter in the least.
What we need to know is that it isnt legal. On the office floor of the brokerage, its kill or be killed. As Jordans father (Rob Reiner) asks him, Youve got all the money in the world. Do you need everybody elses?
It could be accused of being a little episodic, especially in the middle, but The Wolf of Wall Street is exhilarating entertainment, and one of the most jaw-droppingly profane mainstream comedies youre ever likely to see.
Its splutteringly funny, and the sicker it gets, the funnier it gets. A sequence in which Jordan feels the full effects of his favourite pills showcases an eye for physical comedy you wouldnt have thought Scorsese and DiCaprio capable of, and it might be the funniest thing to hit our screens in several years.
This is DiCaprios fifth time working with Scorsese, and he delivers an exceptional performance, fizzing with energy and potency.
Its the kind of turn that doesnt win Oscars because its not an impersonation and hes not having to overcome any impediment, but this is a character that bursts off the screen and we understand, if not excuse, his every behaviour.
He doesnt seek our sympathy for a moment, yet all the time its impossible to hate him because of DiCaprios charisma and the sheer storytelling exuberance brought to it by Scorsese.
Even when things start to turn serious, as when Kyle Chandlers fed shows up on Jordans yacht to investigate him, scenes are played for sly laughs thanks to smart, witty, prickly dialogue peppered with the most swear words ever heard in a single movie. And being Scorsese, perfect song choices litter the soundtrack.
Of course, its a very serious business, and many people were defrauded, but in a strange way it actually celebrates these characters.
As in Goodfellas, its inconceivable to them that ordinary people would exist in poverty like schnooks. And by playing it as vicious farce, Scorsese both sidesteps the normal pitfalls of the standard biopic, and reduces the need for a moral centre or sense of judgement.
And if theres nothing else we should be grateful to these obscene people for, at least their actions have resulted in one obscenely entertaining movie.
Cinemas and Times
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