The Wolf of Wall Street focuses on Jordan Belfort, a charismatic amoral stock-broking machine with a career more turbulent then a hang glider in a thunderstorm. The films twisting narrative details his rise from promising young upstart, working on the lowest rung of the stockbroking ladder, to the head of a Wall Street empire complete with nudist marching bands and staff that inhale cocaine like a fleet of drug addled hoovers.
Scorsese quickly establishes the tone and pace of his latest movie monster with a series of opening scenes depicting the surreal, excess of the stockbroking wizard’s world. From midget darts to anal coke snorting it is made rapidly apparent that a low key, subtly observed modern fable about the devastating effects of financial corruption this is not. On the contrary, this movie seems to celebrate the dastardly individuals it depicts as well as the world of debauchery they live and thrive in.
In the wrong hands it could have turned into a deeply offensive, charmless, suffocatingly excessive mess or worse still, a generic cautionary tale desperately repeating the shopworn mantra of “crime doesn’t pay”. Luckily close to every aspect of the movie, from the score to the script, is fantastic while each of the actors are at the top of their respective games as is the legendary director at the helm.
DiCaprio gives the most memorable performance of his career in the leading role, delivering epic, inspirational speech after speech, depicting Belfort as some sort of nymphomaniac, tourettes ridden Gordon Gecko and Scrooge McDuck hybrid, while consuming enough drugs on an hourly basis to sedate a herd of wooly mammoth. It is an iconic character, equal parts charming, hilarious and utterly repellent. Frequently breaking the fourth wall and narrating directly to the audience, I couldn’t help but be a little entranced by Belfort’s life of drug fueled debauchery and millionaire extravagance, however exaggerated it may be.
Everyone from Jonah Hill as DiCaprio’s fluorescent toothed, sexually deviant side kick Donnie to McConaugheys chest beating, nut busting mentor is memorable, convincing and for the most part hilarious, aided by the brilliant dialogue and character interaction that feels spontaneous and genuine. It is a relentlessly entertaining showcase of acting talent and directing skill as Scorsese combines rapid fire editing with single take scenes unfolding, almost theatrically, in front of the audience. But more than this, it may also be the funniest film of the year; a particular comedy highlight being a crazed DiCaprio determined not to die sober as his 177 foot yacht is caught in the mother of all storms at sea.
Wolf of Wall Street is by no means perfect, however. There are frequent instances of awkward editing and clunky scene transitions, a potential result of the movie’s rushed post-production. Some of the cast also have the tendency to over do it, with a number of scenes descending into “act-offs” losing what little believability they had. Ultimately however the films main drawback is also the reason it stands out from similar movies made over the years. It lacks any true kind of final, over-arching message or meaning. In a world that invites moral scrutiny and a life that has more peaks and troughs than a Haitian earthquake monitor Belfort seems almost completely devoid of any remorse, other than slight annoyance at being caught and the inconvenience of a few years in a minimum security jail.
There’s no denying The Wolf of Wall Street is a hugely entertaining time and it may well be Scorsese’s most enjoyable film since Goodfellas. It is a coke fueled, pill popping, debauchery filled 3 hour roller-coaster with a single pace that never lets up for an instant. However much like a roller-coaster the thrill, for the most part is fleeting, and if you don’t go in prepared you could end up feeling pretty emptying by the time the credits start rolling. Ok so that last metaphor didn’t really make sense but you get the idea… Essentially if you’re looking for nothing more than a seriously good time you won’t be disappointed. The most ludicrously entertaining film of the year and proof that greed is really f**king good.
7 stars out of 10.