Grade: A-


Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey

Martin Scorsese's modern epic The Wolf of Wall Street is a smorgasbord of bad choices and over-indulgence, but wins with a powerhouse performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. When the field of films from 2013 are looked at in years to come, this will be one always met with the best kind of shock and awe.

The true story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker whose elaborate life is only topped by a mix of drugs, alcohol, and seedy business plans, is the prime example of late 80s-early 90s American greed. In the age of computers and excess, Belfort became king. After the stock market experiences one of its darkest days, he turns a rundown auto mechanic shop into his own corporation, selling penny stocks with swift sales pitches and promises he never plans on living up to. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Belfort comes across as the homecoming king trying to hang on to every inch of his high school popularity even though he's on the verge of losing it every single day. DiCaprio is at his career best with an almost-Jay Gatsby fierceness. He portrays Belfort as a fun-loving manchild who can't get enough of his fortune, but always willing to risk it for the sake of a good time.

His good pal and business partner Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill, doesn't help in keeping him grounded. Neither does anyone he surrounds himself with. After meeting the beautiful Jersey blonde Naomi (played to scene-stealing power by newcomer Margot Robbie), we begin to really see what Belfort is capable of doing. He cheats on his wife with Naomi and, when she finds out, he does the exact opposite of what a movie protagonist should do. He picks the mistress over the wife. Belfort was never intended to be the hero of the movie, though, so it only goes down from there.

Scorsese shines here as the master of putting drama, action, comedy, and sex in a tightly scripted picture. Even his Oscar-winning The Departed wasn't this tight of a formula. Each and every minute of the three hour running time is erratic in the best sense, with not a single piece of dialogue wasted. Even a quick cameo by Matthew McConaughey seems at first unneeded but sustains the same type of excitement the entire picture possesses.

Besides the evocative and attention-grabbing performances and the elusive screenplay, Scorsese's film finds ways to take what would be a raunchy blockbuster drama and adds a certain panache. It's graphic sex (for which the film almost received an NC-17 rating) and superfluous drug use lay the major platform for recent controversy around the supposed misogynistic appearance of Belfort and his partners, but those critiques seem to miss the overall point. There's no glory here, even when it seems like the Belfort estate is what dreams are made of. The Wolf of Wall Street is a cautionary tale of what greed can do to a person. It's a tragedy in every sense of the word, despite it's frequent laugh-out-loud moments.

It may not be the most friendly movie, especially for the faint of heart (trust me, there's some graphic stuff here), but it's a quality film and a damn good representation of DiCaprio's talents.

Rating: R

Runtime: 180 minutes 

© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.