The Wolf of Wall Street was one of my most anticipated films of 2013 (or in South Africa’s case, 2014), – the fact that it’s Martin Scorsese’s latest is but one factor. Seriously, this guy goes from the family friendly Hugo to the R rated Wolf of Wall Street as if it’s just second nature. the man is a legend and this debaucherous tale of stockbroker Jordan Belfort is worthy of the Scorsese legacy.
The supposedly true story of Jordan Belfort – a small time stockbroker turned multi-billionaire is a rags to riches tale of one man and his desire for fame, fortune, and power. But as cliche dictates, with great power comes mountains of cocaine, booze, and an endless line of bedmates.
Given the nature of the film, this may not be for those who would consider themselves prudes – lots of drugs, sex, and rock and roll in a three hour journey of hedonism…lets put it this way, if you don’t want to see Leonardo DiCaprio snorting a line of coke off a prostitutes bare bottom, this isn’t your film. As always, Scorsese’s movies are for those with a strong stomach and an appreciation for filmmaking of the highest order.
The Bottom Line
It seems like this tale has been retold over and over again but for some reason it never really gets old. A young, ambitious professional with a taste for success starts out in the Rothschild investment firm on Wall Street, but as soon as he gets his foot in the door, the establishment closes said door, thrusting the young Belfort back from whence he came. No less deterred and still fueled by the edgy environment of Wall Street, he joins a low investment firm specialising in penny shares for start-up companies. With his business savvy, he grows the business into an empire…but not without catching the attention of the FBI.
As much I enjoyed Hugo – and I did very much – these sort of stories are where Scorsese shines his brightest. His devilishly clever wit and sense for pacing make this three hour biopic yet another in the line of expertly crafted films that have been wrought forth from the mind of one of the industries most celebrated talents. I’m usually of the stance that dirt is something of an aquired taste, and The Wolf of Wall Street is dirty, grungy, chronicling the questionable behaviour of some of the most despicable scumbags one could imagine outside of politics. But it’s stylish dirt – not just your garden variety mulch – and after sprinkling a little Leo DiCaprio over it all, it just wraps it up.
Leonardo DiCaprio is no stranger to this kind of role, which happens to be all too familiar territory when compared with his performance in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can – both Jordan Belfort and Frank Abagnale Jr. share a common intellect and talent for evasion, and although Belfort is far more self-destructive, they are both swindlers beyond compare (not to mention that these characters actually exist). As it seems to be in all his films, Leo steals the spotlight, his presence his raw and powerful, sadistic yet smooth as cocoa butter and ever the charmer – lets just say that if he doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance, I will have lost whatever remaining modicum of faith that I have placed in the Academy. As charismatic as Belfort is, he is not without his foils – the one being mountains of drugs, and other being his friend and partner Donnie Azoff (played by Jonah Hill). Jonah Hill’s career yo-yos as much as his expanding waste, Superbad to Moneyball, 21 Jump Street to The Wolf of Wall Street – if anything, this film proves that he’s as good at being a wealthy goon as he is a penniless one.
More can be taken from The Wolf of Wall Street than it’s flawless storytelling, cheeky humour, and rock-solid performances; it’s a message that Martin Scorcese is still the bull, he has the balls to dive deep into the lowest order of society and provide a film that maintains a morally grey stance but definitive in it’s alignment of character. These are the sort of folk that you’ll love to hate, it’s deeply satisfying, and it’s a fantastic return to mature filmmaking for a director that has consistently given the public a reason to love cinema.