Jan 162014

Jordan Belfort – a man of humble beginnings with a hunger for more. From the lowest guy on the trading floor, to a man with more money than he knew what to do with, his rise was quick and it was rotten. My review of The Wolf of Wall Street after the jump.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio) didn’t want to just do well, he wanted to have it all – the successful career, the beautiful wife, the perfect house, the expensive toys, an endless string of gorgeous women, the admiration of others and, above all else, money. As far as Jordan is concerned, everything can be bought, and life isn’t worth living unless you’re living it rich. He starts his career at the bottom of the Wall Street chain, quickly adapting thanks to the advice of his superior (played by Matthew McConaughey), who teaches him the secret to success on Wall Street is cocaine and lots of sex.

When the market bottoms out Jordan nearly gives up, however he finds a way to adapt and within a short space of time has started a new firm with salesman Donnie (Jonah Hill). He calls the firm Stratton Oakmont, and it quickly becomes the hottest ticket in the market. The Strattonites (as Jordan dubs those who work there) are money-hungry, ruthless, and they worship the ground Jordan walks on. The firm soon gets a reputation for its wild ways and huge successes, which in turn attracts the attention of the authorities, including FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).

How long can Jordan keep the charade up? He is breaking almost every federal law related to trading possible, he’s taking enough drugs on a daily basis to kill the average man, and his erratic and irresponsible behavior is putting the lives of his second wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) and his children, at serious risk.

Excess excess excess. Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Belfort’s book of the same name, is all about the excess. For Belfort, excess was equal to success, so it’s fitting the film embraces this and runs with it. From the 179 minute run time, to the pulsating energy, and the many bare-breasted women, this film has a lot of everything. For the most part this is completely justified, as this is how Belfort lived. By portraying his excessive and rather repulsive lifestyle in almost all of it’s ridiculous glory, Scorsese is not endorsing his behavior, he is merely putting it on the screen for the audience to make of it what they will. While I’m slightly sickened that Belfort will potentially make further money (and gain further notoriety) off his exploits thanks to the film, I am glad that it was made.

Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter have done a fantastic job and making what I found to be an unpalatable book, into an entertaining and engaging film. It remains dark, but it was also extremely funny. I wanted to tear the pages out of the book and burn it by the halfway mark. It was so repetitive and unrelentless in its spiral down the rabbit hole. That makes sense when you consider the amount of drugs he was taking and the size of his ego. Belfort can’t really be considered the most reliable of narrators. The screenplay however, is sharp, snappy and for the most part, well-paced. In considering it, and having read (survived) the book, there’s very little that could be cut from the film, even scenes that exist longer in the film (such as the taking of the “lemons” ) have more of a reason to run so long.

Leonardo Dicaprio has always worked well with Scorsese, and this is no exception. However, watching this film was like an awakening, a revelation of sorts; a reminder of just how damn good he can be. His craziness is just on the line between believable and hell no, and his charisma shone like the gold Belfort adorned himself with. Kyle Chandler is given a slightly meatier government agent role here, and the scene on Belfort’s boat between Belfort and Agent Denham ranks as one of the best in the film. Australian Margot Robbie’s on-screen presence is impressive, and she more than holds her own in scenes with DiCaprio. I loved her accent (such a twang) and the way she held herself. Could we have a spin-off of this film just on Jonah Hill’s character? Hill is absolutely hilarious. He went full crazy here and it worked. Of course I also have to mention McConaughey. He had such small role, but he owned it. I just wish there had been more of him in the film.

As good as The Wolf of Wall Street is, it certainly isn’t for everyone. With nudity, sex scenes, excessive drug use, 506 instances of ‘the F word’ and a barrage of every other cuss word imaginable (and some you’ve probably never heard), it’s not exactly tame. The film has an ‘R’ rating, and for a very good reason. Belfort’s lifestyle wasn’t family friendly, it was hardcore. If you’re willing to take the  near 3 hour ride, then this film is an unstoppable ball of ‘holy shit’. (That’s a very good thing)


By Sam McCosh


The Facts

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer(s): Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey
Runtime: 179 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: January 23rd 2014