The Wolf of Wall Street is like a hyperactive three-year-old. Sure, for a little while the over-the-top antics and outrageous moments are cute, but after three hours, it becomes exhausting and annoying leaving you simply waiting for it to finally be put to bed.
The film, the fifth collaboration between Director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, is based on Jordan Belfort’s similarly titled autobiography where he details his life of debauchery and how he scammed millions as a stockbroker.
Jordan (DiCaprio, The Great Gatsby) narrates how he came to Wall Street wide-eyed and just hoping to lead the normal manic life of a stockbroker. His mentor, Mark Hanna (a terrific Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club), provides the trade secret for being a success — cocaine and lots of it!
After learning how to scam investors with penny stocks, Jordan forms his own brokerage firm with his best friend, Donny (Jonah Hill, This Is the End), and stashes his money with his pal, Brad (Jon Bernthal, Snitch) and quickly upgrades his life with a better car, better clothes and a new wife (a seductively irresistible Margot Robbie). But Jordan’s lust for more sex, more drugs and much more money could prove his undoing as federal investigator Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler, Broken City) seeks to shut down his corruption scam.
DiCaprio, a three-time Best Actor Oscar nominee, finds another level to climb with this brilliant, magnetic performance that should net him his fourth nomination.
DiCaprio finds new ways to delve into Jordan’s depravity (including a bondage and anal drug use scene) and fearlessly approaches the character.
While he’s a scene devourer in the cartoonish partying scenes, DiCaprio excels in the (somewhat) quieter moments when Jordan is evangelizing his employees and whipping them into a frenzy. This is one of DiCaprio’s career best performances and it’s a shame the movie doesn’t match his outstanding effort.
Like one of Jordan’s illicit cocktails, Terence Winter’s (The Sopranos) script is laced with some hilarious gems, but there’s only so many ways characters can do something shocking or drop the f-bomb before it resembles a comedian who should have wrapped his set about an hour ago.
It’s always frustrating when a director making a film about the dangers of excess falls into the same trap as their subjects. Had Scorsese trimmed the three hour film to a more manageable two hours, he likely would have considered how many times he needed to show Jordan doing drugs or having sex with skanky prostitutes. Smart odds are the male orgy scene probably wouldn’t have made the final cut either.
The scenes are meant to shock and titillate, but instead they just become redundant and worse, predictable, no matter how energetically Scorsese stages them.
Unlike other outhouse to the penthouse stories, there’s a certain sense of enjoying the good life vicariously through the character, but Jordan is so repellant that you’re left hoping for a flameout as spectacular as his insane lifestyle.
After reveling in the hardcore debauchery for nearly two and a half-hours, Scorsese shifts the tone to a dramatic detox of sorts for Jordan as his empire is threatened. It’d be effective if Jordan was slightly remorseful, but even then it’s hard to gauge what Jordan learned from his experiences or what, if anything, the audience should take away from the film other than drugs make people do crazy stuff.
As an anti-drug message, The Wolf of Wall Street may have a purpose beyond DiCaprio’s outstanding performance, but there’s no sense in wasting three hours for either.
Rating: 5 out of 10