The Wolf of Wall Street: Review by William McClean

The Wolf of Wall Street (****)

Certificate: 18

Running Time: 180 minutes

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Mathew McConaughey, Rob Reiner and Kyle Chandler

(Ritz Multiplex, Cookstown 26/01/2014)

MARTIN Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street plays out like the capitalist fantasies of Gordon Gekko’s wildest dreams. A three-hour long odyssey that explores the real-life story of stockbroker Jordon Belfort, whose decadent lifestyle of excess and debauchery would put even the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula to shame.

The film chronicles the life of Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), from his metaphoric rise within Wall Street to his equally impressive downfall. How he was able to manipulate the stock market through his brokerage firm Stratford-Oakmonth, to fund the lavish drug-fuelled lifestyle he had grown accustomed too, before his eventual prosecution by the FBI in 1998.

Oliver Stone’s Wall Street might seem like the most obvious cinematic reference point for Scorsese’s latest feature, but in reality it’s the director’s own seminal gangster classic, Goodfellas that feels like a much better comparison. While it would be a huge disservice to merely claim the Scorsese has replaced stockbrokers for gangsters, there are clear comparisons between the two.

Both are based on the real-life memoirs of their respective anti-heroes, with DiCaprio’s performance reminiscent of Ray Liotta’s portrayal of Henry Hill in the 1990 mobster epic. Much like he did within Goodfellas, Scorsese pushes viewer’s sympathy for the central character to the very limits.

This is now the fifth collaboration between DiCaprio and Scorsese and to date it’s probably their best. DiCaprio’s central-performance is simply a joy to behold, making Belford a much more likeable character than he really ought to be. The role reflects the actor’s continued maturity over the past few years and undoubtedly reaffirms the claim he is one of the finest actors of his generation. Reportedly DiCaprio, who also has a producer’s credit on the feature, has been obsessed with bringing this story to the big screen, since first reading the novel in 2007 and tirelessly persuaded Scorsese to helm the feature.

While DiCaprio’s Oscar-nominated performance will take much of the film’s plaudits, his onscreen co-stars deserve considerable praise as well. Jonah Hill continues to prove there’s much more to the actor than his frat-boy antics. Australian actress Margot Robbie oozes sexuality onscreen as Belfort’s beautiful trophy wife, the former Neighbour’s actresses’ arrival on the big screen, reminiscent of Cameron Diaz’s breakthrough in The Mask.

But best of all is Mathew McConaughey’s brief cameo performance in the film’s opening act and Rob Reiner as Belfort’s father. McConaughey plays the sleazy stockbroker who inspires Belfort’s outlook towards his profession, as the actor continues to move away from his romantic comedy days his self-dubbed ‘McConnaissance’ shows no end in sight.

Clocking in at three hours long the film is unquestionably too long and in need of a much more ruthless edit, but it still romps through its runtime with relative ease, lurching from one drug-fuelled orgy to another. Terence Winter’s screenplay is filled with wonderful black humour, with Belfort’s overdose on Methaqualone being one excruciatingly memorable example.

Some may argue the film overly glamorizes Belford’s lifestyle, never really showing the consequences for his actions, but could the same not be said for Goodfellas and the mafia? The director leaves it up to viewers to decide whether character’s like Belfort are partly responsible for the financial collapse on Wall Street, or were they merely a reflection of greed and excess nurtured within the era.

Surprisingly for Scorsese’s 23rd movie, The Wolf of Wall Street is still as sharp and edgy as some of 71 year Old’s previous directorial efforts. It’s by no means perfect, but he has earned the right to make the film how he sees, It’s more than deserving of its place alongside the director’s iconic back-catalogue, much like with the underrated Casino, it may improve with time.

Review by William McClean

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