Film review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Joseph Austin reviews The Wolf of Wall Street.

Midget tossing.

Not something you see every day.

But the opening to Martin Scorsese’s 49th feature film, in a career spanning more than half a century, establishes that today is no average day.

Today is one of Stratton Oakmont Inc’s notorious office parties.

A room full of crazy-faced stock brokers, frantically waving fistfuls of cash, eagerly anticipate the launch of the midget, wearing helmet and goggles, towards a giant ‘X’.

Of the two men hurling these willing midgets, one is Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Or, as the newspapers call him, “the wolf of wall street”.

We’re then greeted with a voiceover: “My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26, I made $49m, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.”

Reminiscent of the opening voiceover from one of Martin Scorsese’s previous works, Goodfellas (1990), Belfort’s monologue thrusts you deep into the world of dollar bills, debauchery and drugs. Lots of drugs.

Based on a true story, The Wolf of Wall Street depicts the rise and fall of perhaps the most infamous Wall Street trader of the 20th century; from the growth of Stratton Oakmont Inc. as one of the biggest names in stockbroking, to the scandal and corruption of the US stock market.

Teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the fifth time, (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island), Scorsese’s relationship with DiCaprio couldn’t be stonger.

They certainly bring the best out in each other.

Scorsese, now into his 70s, directs a film so full of energy and boldness that you could easily mistake it for a younger man’s film.

And DiCaprio, now 39, easily plays (at the beginning of the film) a 21-year-old Belfort, exuding all the charisma and cockiness one would need to pull off such a character.

Jonah Hill is superb as Belfort’s sidekick Donnie Azoff, and the two produce some memorable and completely hilarious scenes together, mostly involving drugs (and some with fish!).

Matthew McConaughey’s contribution is short but sweet in his role as Mark Hanna, the shady stockbroker who gives Belfort his chance on Wall Street.

At just under three hours, The Wolf of Wall Street could do with a slight trim in places, although you do get the impression that Scorsese isn’t one to cut back on a story he thinks is worth telling. And this one is.

Scorsese once said that he “loves studying ancient history and seeing how empires rise and fall, sowing the seeds of their own destruction”.

Jordan Belfort’s story is far from ancient history but, is undoubtedly one of self-destruction through excess.

If there were ever to be a celebration of immorality, outrageousness and complete obscenity, then The Wolf of Wall Street is the party for you.