Hotly anticipated 2013 release (2014 in the UK) The Wolf of Wall Street see’s master filmmaker Martin Scorsese turn his directorial eye on the true-life story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Desperate to be rich, Belfort moved to New York as a young man so that he could become a stockbroker. After his first employer fails, leaving Belfort jobless, he takes a job with a much smaller stockbroker. He quickly earns himself a small fortune and sets up his own business, where he goes on to make millions of dollars. The problem is, a lot of Belfort’s business is illegal and it would seem to be only a matter of time before his ‘chickens come home to roost’, as one character so aptly puts it.
The story comes from the memoirs of Belfort himself, which is where the movie takes it’s name from. Large parts of the film are dedicated to highlighting the levels of it’s lead characters’ debauchery, which only gets worse as he makes more and more money. Belfort loves drugs, sex and alcohol to an extreme level, and Scorsese shows us much of it in great detail. Critics of the movie have slated the director for glamourising the life of the protagonist, but my take on the movie couldn’t be further from that.
Rather than explicitly cast judgement on Belfort, Scorsese merely let’s us into his world – indeed it is his lead who narrates much of the story. The window into these events allows the viewer to make up their own mind on the kind of man Belfort is and the life he leads. If you watch this film and think his life looks glamorous and something Scorsese approves of then that reflects on you and what you want to see from the film, not on the intent of anybody involved here. It is intelligent filmmaking that respects it’s audience, though seemingly some people need their own thoughts spoon-fed to them. Thankfully, that is something Scorsese is unwilling to offer.
The film features some top class performances, but none could ever rise above that of DiCaprio. He continues to prove himself as one of the finest actors around, and once again he is in truly scintillating form. The lead role is an exciting one and DiCaprio’s handling of it is truly masterful. He has no inhibitions at all; he is constantly willing to lose himself on screen – he is never less than wonderful to watch, carrying the whole movie. He is well aided by Jonah Hill, PJ. Byrne and the sultry Margot Robbie.
Never afraid to play elements of the story for dark laughs, The Wolf of Wall Street is a thoroughly engaging watch, impressively managing to hold interest throughout despite it’s considerable run time. It has plenty in common with the director’s seminal gangster flick Goodfellas, not least the charm and charisma of it’s detestable lead. Only time will tell whether the two films can be held in the same esteem but at age 70, Martin Scorsese continues to demonstrate that he is still as relevant as he ever was.