Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) arrives on Wall Street as a 22 year old man freshly married and ready to start life as a trader on the New York Stock Exchange. His first introduction to life in the business is through the maniacal Mark Hanna (McConaughey) who talks him through what it takes to be a trader – primarily drugs and alcohol. When Black Monday happens and he loses his job, he takes to what are known as “penny stocks” in order to make ends meet. When he realises the potential of what other, more upmarket, traders aren’t doing he establishes a new trading organisation called Stratton Oakmont with right-hand-man Donnie Azof (Hill). The resulting growth in the business and their individual wealth takes them on a journey of the most obscene excess that you are likely to imagine possible, but it’s not all legal and it’s only a matter of time until the law are banging down the door.
There is something special about Scorsese in this form as the madness unfolds and the characters get more and more out of control. Much like Goodfellas and Casino there is greed at the centre of everything only this time the characters are not fuelled by violence but more so their unending willingness to risk it all to keep the journey going.
DiCaprio is undoubtedly one of the finest actors of this or any generation and he delivers what will most likely be considered his finest performance to date. He is out of control and entertaining, you simply cannot take your eyes off the screen when he’s on it. Jonah Hill matches his performance in Moneyball with a great turn as Donnie Azof, Belfort’s right hand man. His timing is spot on especially in conversation with DiCaprio and one particular scene with Beflort’s father played by Rob Reiner will have you falling off your seat. Although Margot Robbie has been on the scene for a while this is a star-making role and she is both brilliant and sexy as Belfort’s wife. Her stock just jumped right off the charts. Last but by no means least, and this is being said with more regularity than most of us ever expected, you can’t not mention how good McConaughey is even if his screen time is limited. Long may it continue.
There are traces of other Scorsese projects all over this and it follows in the footsteps of Goodfellas with the story being narrated by Belfort. It is undoubtedly a good way to tell the story but the fact that Scorsese has used this technique before make it a bit of a disappointment. There is also the running time to discuss as it hits three hours and it is particularly noticeable during the final act as the pace drops off dramatically.
A tale of excess in the extreme The Wolf of Wall Street is a very entertaining piece, with some excellent performances, but it never quite feels like it gets all the way home, which doesn’t make it in any way bad just not as good as we would have hoped.