It’s a romp, it’s a riot, it’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Scorsese’s latest film, and the famed director’s fifth with Leonardo DiCaprio, is a hell of a good time. Often laugh-out-loud funny and never dull, The Wolf of Wall Street‘s 179 minutes flew by. The film was reportedly edited down from four-plus hours. I’d be curious to see what was taken out for the theatrical release; I’m also hoping the DVD/Blu-Ray release will have the unedited version.
With a script by Terence Winter based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street is nothing if not excessive: drugs, sex, drugs, drugs, money and lots more sex. The f-word is used 506 times in The Wolf of Wall Street, more than any Scorsese movie. Part of the reported edits were for the movie to meet the criteria for a R-rating, instead of the NC-17 it would have received from the MPAA. Gordon Gecko ain’t got nothing on Belfort (an unhinged Leonardo DiCaprio doing some of his best work ever), the hotshot stockbroker whose mercurial rise up Wall Street didn’t go unnoticed. Belfort enjoyed a few totally uninhibited years before the FBI crashed his party. But Wolf cuts deep, if ever so subtly. It starts with a doe-eyed Belfort at age 22 (and somehow still believably played by DiCaprio, 39 – he’s a real-life Benjamin Button) getting advice from his boss (Matthew McConaughey, who’s having his best year ever) over lunch during his first day on the job. Belfort drinks water, turns down a martini and worries about his clients’ financials on Day One.
If there’s an obvious message Wolf sends, it’s that money corrupts and it blinds. The other messages, if you look for them and if you care about that kind of stuff, are much more subtle. I’ve read reviews that accuse Scorsese of celebrating Belfort, greed, excess and corruption. For me, the destructiveness of it all was clear. Belfort isn’t someone to be idolized or feared; Belfort is just a product of his time. Money is his drug. Drugs are also his drugs, and he’s not shy about listing everything he does as part of his regular morning routine, but nothing gets him going quite like money.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a return to form for DiCaprio who appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s disappointing The Great Gatsby earlier in the year. Everyone is at the top of their game (wouldn’t you be, working for a master and lover of cinema like Scorsese?). The movie also has all of the makings of a Scorsese classic: voice-over, breaking the fourth wall, flashbacks and flash-forwards, a blonde leading lady (Margot Robbie as Belfort’s second wife with whom he is caught cheating and snorting cocaine off her chest by his first wife – who kinda gets the shaft in Wolf – portrayed by Cristin Milioti), profanity, and razor-sharp dialogue. Jonah Hill continues to surprise as Belfort’s sidekick, McConaughey’s brief appearance was excellent and the scene-stealing 23-year-old Robbie easily holds her own among big-screen veterans. FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler, who one of these days will get the leading role he deserves) is a great adversary to DiCaprio’s Belfort. The boat scene they share – you’ll know it when you see it – is one of many highlights in Wolf.
The soundtrack is such a good fit, too, you feel the songs were created for the purpose of Wolf.
I’m not sure yet where The Wolf of Wall Street ranks in Scorsese’s repertoire, or even in the DiCaprio-Scorsese collection, but along with American Hustle – which is a Scorsese homage, really – there aren’t better or more fun ways to spend three hours at the movies. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese is a master at work.
The Wolf of Wall Street is in Montreal theatres everywhere. It opened on Christmas Day.