Martin Scorsese. The name alone has become synonymous with cinema. There’s no doubt that the man has crafted some of cinema’s most influential and most memorable films. From Mean Streets to The Departed, the man knows how to direct – no question. His new film is pure Scorsese, confident, testosterone-fueled and brimming with an exhausting level of energy.
Leonardo DiCaprio, in his fifth collaboration with Scorsese, stars as Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who, with the help of Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), creates a billion-dollar company. His questionable tactics, most of them illegal, attract the attention of the FBI, primarily FBI agent Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).
This is a crazy story, raising all the more eyebrows with the knowledge that it’s mostly based on real events. Belfort’s activities were almost always, in some way or another, relating to debauchery. Whether he was drugged-up out of his mind, or humping every prostitute imaginable, this was a man who lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that comes with money, lots and lots of money. This is a man who didn’t start bad, but his love and obsession with financial gain inevitably led to him becoming a drug-addicted playboy.
As if to set the tone as early and graphically as possible, the film begins with DiCaprio’s character snorting cocaine from a prostitute’s clearly-spread rear. Prepare yourself for three-hours of bad men doing bad things. Scorsese has never been the type to dodge the chance to show the dark sides of human-nature. Many of his films depict violence, drug-use and cussing quite freely, so there’s no surprise that The Wolf of Wall Street sees Scorsese confidently thrusting the audience into depraved scenes of sex and drug-use, and he’s clearly having fun while doing it. The twisted sense of humour and fun is delivered in an entertaining way, with Scorsese’s swinging camera lively depicting every moment of insanity.
Proudly over the top and infectiously funny, Scorsese takes the robust screenplay and absolutely has a field-day with it. Terence Winter, best known for his work penning episodes of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, has written an in-your-face adaptation of Jordon Belfort’s memoir that has more scenes of testosterone-driven debauchery than you can shake a disapproving-head at. Yes, three-hours may be a long time to spend in this company, but you don’t really notice it. The film rolls along at a great pace, slowing down when it needs to amidst the rampant craziness.
DiCaprio has proven himself to be a damn fine actor with his impressive resume, and he’s done it again. Belfort’s bawdy persona could easily have been irritating or beyond offensive, and while the man dips into the latter, we’re still with him for most of the way. We’re even on his side through most of his downright despicable activities. DiCaprio brings a level of likability to the man. You know there’s a decent man somewhere in there, but he’s having way too much fun to want to find him. And maybe we are too. It’s a salacious performance that marks Belfort as another strong Scorsese male, with DiCaprio giving it his all in the process.
There’s a solid cast here, with Jonah Hill in fine form as Belfort’s right-hand man. Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin and Rob Reiner all put in good work in roles of different sizes.
While The Wolf of Wall Street is indeed a great film, it may also be a film that embraces its key theme of excess a little too literally. Sure, it’s fun seeing the shenanigans that these men get up to, but there’s a lack of depth that ultimately hurts the picture. For a three-hour film, there’s surprisingly little room for interpretation or nuance. If you approach this film looking for entertainment, decent acting and some truly funny comedy, then you’re in for a great ride. Unfortunately, it’s the type of film that lingers way too long on the points that it wants to drive home. Belfort likes drugs and sex – we get that, but it’s as though Scorsese thinks you may not, unless he shows you, over and over again.
This may not be Scorsese at his ultimate best, but it’s still a depraved journey worth taking. A deranged and deliciously indecorous picture, The Wolf of Wall Street is pure adult entertainment.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10