THE STORY – In 1987, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes an entry-level job at a Wall Street brokerage firm. By the early 1990s, while still in his 20s, Belfort founds his own firm, Stratton Oakmont. Together with his trusted lieutenant (Jonah Hill) and a merry band of brokers, Belfort makes a huge fortune by defrauding wealthy investors out of millions. However, while Belfort and his cronies partake in a hedonistic brew of sex, drugs and thrills, the SEC and the FBI close in on his empire of excess.
THE CAST – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau & Jean Dujardin
THE TEAM – Martin Scorsese (Director) & Terrence Winter (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 179 Minutes
By Josh Williams
Martin Scorsese’s energetic, high-octane, drug-induced “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a fast-paced piece of filmmaking that relishes in its debauchery. Drugs, sex, money, violence, the list goes on and on. Scorsese proves that even with the passing of time and many films under his belt, he is still in absolute tip top shape and capable of making a film that feels as alive as “Goodfellas” did back in the 1990’s. With career-defining performances, a herculean feat of editing and an immaculate (And endlessly quotable) screenplay from Terrence Winter, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a film overflowing with 1980’s style and elegance that is also drowning in testosterone. From start to finish the film does not slow down or let up for its near three-hour runtime.
Based on the real-life stockbroker by the same name, “The Wolf of Wall Street” surrounds the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). From a no-name stockbroker to the CEO of his own company, Stratton Oakmont, the film depicts Belfort at his absolute highest point to only bring us to his devastating lows. As if the rise of Belfort’s empire isn’t exciting enough, the downfall is almost twice as exciting. Scorsese is a clearly a fan of telling stories about characters who are self-destructive and Jordan Belfort is the textbook definition of self-destructive.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” fits perfectly into the filmography of one of cinemas greatest masters. Martin Scorsese is obsessed with putting characters on top of a pedestal and then not only forcing them off the ledge but destroying the obelisk from underneath them. Jordan Belfort is at the top of his game for the first few hours of the film. Utilizing the telephone as an M16 as he describes it, Belfort is a relentless salesman. But once his money laundering, fraud, and all the other federal government troubles begin to drown him, he has no choice but to collapse. The collapse is inevitable and devastating for Belfort. Scorsese is the perfect director to head up something of this caliber after telling similar stories before.
“Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas,” “The Departed” & “Silence.” All classic films from Martin Scorsese that could all also probably be considered masterpieces. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is easily something that will land among those other pieces. Though what is it that makes this film play on the caliber of those other Scorsese projects? Well, there are quite a few things. The first being the performances. The film features career bests from several of the actors involved. DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, are the main trio that absolutely steals the show. DiCaprio, in particular, has never been this energetic, charismatic, intense or colorful, before or since. Leonardo DiCaprio is absolute dynamite and it’s no surprise that he won an Oscar for “The Revenant” soon after giving his career-best in “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” It was simply an IOU for what should’ve already happened. Whether it’s because of the film’s length or the insane circumstances that the script presents, DiCaprio is given a memorable amount to do and he holds our attention every step of the way to the point where those three hours go by quicker than any other movie with that same runtime. With his lengthy monologues within Stratton Oakmont, to the smaller intimate moments after his downfall, he does not miss a single beat. From his “inspirational” speeches of screaming and throwing tantrums to his drugged up moments where he cannot even speak cohesive sentences, DiCaprio is at his absolute best in this film. Margot Robbie stars in her breakout role in this film and she proved she was a force to be reckoned with. Delivering her lines with power and confidence, she commands every scene she is in. While she would go on to top this performance with her work in “I, Tonya,” she made a hell of a first impression as she forced the audience to put all of their focus on her simply through her inflection and facial expressions.
But the most surprising performance of the trio is Jonah Hill’s. Hill plays the right-hand man to Belfort, Donnie Azoff. Hill is known for his comedic performances and while his role in this film is definitely of comedic nature, he is a tour de force of unhinged behavior. With his eyeglasses that make his eyes look all bugged out, to the shiniest white teeth in the business, Jonah Hill easily gives the greatest performance of his career in this film as he weaves his way through his dialogue that is filled with insults, drunken stupor outbursts and everything else in between. The rest of the supporting characters though are brilliant, with cameos and smaller parts from Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Jean Dujardin and more.
While the performances shine like usual in a Scorsese film, the visuals are practically a character of their own. Shot by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, from the crazy whip pans to the overdramatic dolly in and outs, the film’s visuals match the energy that is put out by the actors. As if the performances weren’t high intense enough, the visuals match that and then double it. From the stunning 1980’s architecture, the suits and dresses that all of the characters wear throughout the film, everything is designed flawlessly. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is pulse pounding in its visuals from the first frame to the memorable final frame where Scorsese pulls together his message and the film’s theme by pointing his camera at the audience, asking them to look inward at their own perception of what the American Dream really is.
Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a film that wears its debauchery as a badge of honor. Even though it is quite off-putting for large portions of the film, Scorsese does not forget that every great rise needs a great fall. Using that as the main weapon for the film’s success, the debauchery is almost necessary. From the constant sex scenes to the copious amount of drug consumption, the film shoves all of this down our throat and more. Using the word “fuck” more times than Samuel Jackson has used it in his entire career, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a crude ride from start to finish. With an absolutely impeccable screenplay, career-defining performances, and a visual approach that is just as energetic as the characters, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a film that will continue to grow in stature land among the ranks of Scorsese’s best including “Taxi Driver” “Raging Bull” “Goodfellas” and “The Departed.”
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – DiCaprio gives the most bat-shit insane performance of his career. Jonah Hill is equally bizarre and Margot Robbie steals every scene she’s in. The screenplay is memorably written with quotable lines and moments that are expertly delivered by an energetic Scorsese.
THE BAD – At times the debauchery of the film is a bit overwhelming. It happens too much and too often that it becomes incredibly off putting especially on rewatches.
THE OSCARS – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor & Best Adapted Screenplay (Nominated)
THE FINAL SCORE – 9/10