Out of the backroom mob politics of “Goodfellas” and “Casino” and into the skyscraper offices of New York City’s financial district, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a feverishly exciting dramatic thrill ride that deals with issues of overlength but finds its rightful place in the catalogue of Martin Scorsese’s best epics.
When we meet Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), he’s fresh off the bus on Wall Street, pursuing the success of the stockbroker. When the Black Monday stock market crash leaves him without a job in the big leagues, he finds his way into the grimy business of penny stock trading where he discovers untapped potential in the lack of regulation and 50% commission rates. Belfort goes on to become in only a matter of years a top Wall Street mogul in the late 1980’s and 90’s – living a life of wild excess while leading a bogus brokerage firm that manipulates stock prices and becomes the largest over-the-counter financial firm in the country.
Scene-stealing cameos and slick camerawork abound, Scorsese returns to the crime saga format that made many of his mid-career films timeless hits. DiCaprio holds the reins in a never-ending procession of increasingly outlandish behavior. Hookers, drugs, and money, money, money. Jordan’s total lack of moderation is matched only by that of his partner, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill): a second-rate businessman riding Belfort’s coattails. Jonah Hill (known primarily for his work in Judd Apatow comedies) is brought in to assist the dramatic actors in the film with the lengthy comedic scenes that are surprisingly uneven in quality considering the fine-toothed quality comb you may expect from Scorsese. Dark humor and even some physical and slapstick comedy works well, but there are more than a few occasions in this three-hour biopic that feel inflated and overlong. Some scenes that lose the electric pace go on and on like a bad SNL sketch. It amounts to around thirty minutes of so-so material spread throughout the 3-hour runtime.
Still, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is huge, ambitious, and a lot of fun. Scorsese is an experienced storyteller that easily weaves us through complex plotting – no easy feat as evidenced by the over-complications of story in David O. Russell’s similarly presented “American Hustle.” DiCaprio (in his best performance yet) successfully runs his lavish lifestyle through a different lens than his performance earlier this year as Jay Gatsby- and together, Scorsese and DiCaprio have made their defining collaboration.
U.S. Wide Release: December 25, 2013 | U.K. Wide Release: January 17, 2014
3 hr. 0 min.