Animals rule Wall Street. Bulls. Bears. Sharks. But in the late 80s, a wolf dominated the marketplace. Said wolf’s name was Jordan Belfort, a larger than life business mogul who turned selling penny stocks into big business transactions. Belfort was one of those guys that at the age of 27 was already earning $48 million dollars a year. Instead of being happy with this mind-blowing payday, he wanted more. He yearned for $52 million because that way he would have been making a million bucks a week. Belfort was so greedy he made Gordon Gekko look like the Geico Gecko. Everyone in Martin Scorsese’s latest film “The Wolf Of Wall Street” wants to be filthy rich at any cost. Redefining the American Dream as a gold and silver laced nightmare, Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio bring the rise and fall of Jordan Belfrot’s life to the big screen. Making things even scarier, everything about the tale actually happened.
“The Wolf Of Wall Street” has Martin Scorsese reteaming with Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since 2010’s “Shutter Island.” For just under three-hours, the two offer up a schmorgesborg of excess in every form imaginable. Taking greed to its grossest extreme, DiCaprio plays stockbroker tycoon Jordan Belfrot. Addicted to drugs, hard partying, women, and expensive things, the one vice he is in love with more than anything else in the world is money. He cannot get enough of the stuff. As a result, Scorsese does not hold back in showing just what cold, hard cash can buy…which is pretty much everything.
We navigate Belfort’s world with the tycoon himself acting as our guide and narrator. Because the man doesn’t even care if the FBI is on his tail for insider trading, he has no problem disregarding cinema’s golden rule, breaking the fourth wall. Time after time, he talks directly into the camera and speaks to the screen as if he were talking to an autobiographer recounting his life. Soprano’s creator Terrance Winter actually used his autobiography as the inspiration for his screenplay. The tilte came from his book as well.
Even though Jordan literally stops the action at times and addresses the audience as if they were being given a personal, guided tour of is life, it never feels intrusive. Plenty of laughs are derived from the way Jordan remembers things and the way they actually happened. Among these, a particular moment when he drives his all white Lamborghini home from the country club after a long night of pill popping is hilarious.
This isn’t the only time the audience watches Jordan sling back a few Quaaludes. In fact, for essentially the entire movie, the character is shooting back some form of drug. Percocet. Morphine. Coke. Crack. Weed. Booze. You name it, he’s ingested, snorted, or smoked it. Oh yeah, and he absolutely loves hookers too.
It doesn’t take long for this epic lifestyle to attract the attention of the FBI. Kyle Chandler (Argo) plays Patrick Denham, the agent responsible for making the arrest. Before he does so, however, Belfort’s sales tactics woo the entire Wall Street world. Everyone wants to be live like this guy, especially his second in command Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill).
Picking up where he left off in “Moneyball,” Hill proves that he can hold his own in a film with more dramatic weight than “21 Jump Street” or “This Is The End.” With his WASPY hairdo and clothes, Donnie is a true white-collar criminal. He has no idea how to interact with actual crooks, but as he is sucked into that type of dirty world, it is hysterical to watch him try to do so.
Joining Hill in a supporting role is an impressive ensemble cast featuring performances by: Matthew McCanughey, Jon Bernthal, Spike Jonze, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, and Morgot Robbie (About Time). The 23-year-old Australian born actress is the least known name on the list, but Morgot’s turn as Belfort’s seductive wife is impressive. For a foreign born actress, kudus are also in store for her spot on Brooklyn accent.
No one, however, outshines the star of the film Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s forceful, manic, absurd, and a knockout to watch inhabit the screen. As unbelievable as some of the shenanigans Jordan Belfort manages to pull during his tenure on Wall Street, DiCaprio grounds the character in some semblance of reality and brings a certain credibility to the person. These moments are certainly few and far between, and are often restricted to just a side glance or a second of recognition, but DiCaprio sprinkles them in like only a master craftsman can. It’s about time the Academy honors the actor for his talent.
While I did not sit in the theater and count every single one, apparently “The Wolf Of Wall Street” drops the f-bomb almost 1,500 times. Terrance Winter, you should be proud; you too Martin Scorsese. The two talented filmmakers team up for an incredibly dark and twisted romp through the heyday of Wall Street. The two could have done without some of the cursing, drug taking, and nudity, but I can forgive him for the sake of good art.
“The Wolf Of Wall Street” ranks among Scorsese’s best work. Humor, drama, and a lot of lawless behavior converge for a knockout punch of cinematic awesomeness. Call if “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” meets “Wall Street” if you will. In any case, “Wolf” is a heck of a lot of fun to watch—all 180 minutes of it.
Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence
By David Morris