At 71-years-old Martin Scorsese is still at the top of his game. With The Wolf Of Wall Street, Scorsese once again re-teams with Leonardo DiCaprio, creating electrifying results. Based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name and adapted for the screen by Terence Winter (Creator of Boardwalk Empire & producer of The Sopranos), The Wolf Of Wall Street is a smashing good time. The three hour run time (a slight trim of Scorsese’s original four hour edit) is a breeze, the length not even slightly noticeable. In fact, some two our films that I’ve seen this year felt longer than The Wolf Of Wall Street‘s razor sharp three hour run. It’s that on the money (ha).
We are quickly thrown into the world of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and it’s a lavish one ready for envy. But first, Belfort takes us to the beginning, when he was a hungry 22-year-old stockbroker just trying to make it. On his first day on the job, one of the company’s bosses Mark Hanna (a devastatingly great Matthew McConaughey) takes him out to lunch to teach him the ropes. Hanna introduces him to less ethical methods of earning money quickly through phoney practices and sleazy techniques. Hanna also introduces him to drug use and playboy techniques that will soon become the new norm for Belfort at the workplace. There is simply no going back.
That company caves in after the stock market crash of 1987 and Belfort is left without a job with nowhere to turn. That is until he finds a small town stock company that sells tiny penny stocks. He seizes the opportunity and instantly excels at the job. He meets an enthusiastic character named Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) whose quickly impressed with Belfort’s success and soon signs up to work along his side. The next thing you know, Belfort starts his own company, Stratton Oakmont, along with Azoff and a few of his old school friends from Queens who know a thing or two about selling people stuff they don’t need. What Belfort does is an art, at least according to him. Their goal is to convince clients to believe these stocks are worth something, willingly screwing them out of all that they have. And they’re good at. Too good. He gives his workers a script to read off, they abide, and they all become richer.
Things quickly get out of hand. Belfort and his compadres get richer an richer, leaving their small time workplace in Long Island for a prime spot on Wall Street in no time. They soon are living the dream, creating a work environment like no other: abusing drugs, having crazy sex all over the workplace, throwing parties with midgets and strippers. This catches the eye of FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) who is eager to bring Belfort and his palace down to the ground. Of course, Belfort is too enamored with the money, the drugs, and most importantly, himself, to ever give this lifestyle up.
What you have with The Wolf Of Wall Street is a thunderous homerun. It’s relentlessly hilarious and full of life. The film never drags, not even for a second. This is a very important factor when you’re discussing a three hour film. Scorsese shows it all, and it results in a film that’s absolute eye candy. There’s sex, lots of sex. Insane amounts of drug use. Sometimes both at the same time. It’s all interchangeable. A triumphant soundtrack escorts all of the fun in a glorious fashion that won’t allow your eyes to avert from the screen, not even for a second. It’s organized madness.
Where to begin with the performances? DiCaprio has outdone himself, in one of the actors greatest performances yet. It may be his finest. He leaves it all on screen, with unforgettable scene after another. Two that stand out amongst the rest are an epic final speech he gives to his workers, as well as one when he’s crawling on all fours after overdoing a heavy-handed drug with Jonah Hill’s Azoff. Jonah Hill proves that his performance in Moneyball was no one trick pony. He’s indeed the real deal. His Azoff character, big chompers and all, is absurd and hilarious, a perfect compliment to DiCaprio. There’s also good work from Margot Robbie (who plays Naomi Lapagilia, Belfort’s fancy wife), Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, P. J. Byrne, and the rest of the cast who played the inane associates under Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont. Matthew McConaughey – in practically an extended cameo – is only in the thing for about five minutes, but nearly steals the whole show.
The Wolf Of Wall Street is one of the best times that you will have spent in the theater all year. I didn’t even think about checking my watch or wondering how much had time had gone by, not even once. It was that good. Everything about this film is Oscar worthy, from Scorsese’s direction, to the performance of it’s feverish leader, Leonardo DiCaprio, who is long overdue for a victory. This has been a great year for film, so it will be tough for anything to be a sure thing. However, I can assure you is that you will leave The Wolf Of Wall Street grinning from ear to ear, because it’s quite simply one of the best god damn films of the year.