Marking the fifth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf Of Wall Street is an exhilarating and derisive black comedy that’s miles away from their previous efforts The Gangs Of New York and The Aviator. Based on the memoirs of real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, played superbly by DiCaprio, there’s not much to the film in terms of depth. But as a piece of no-frills entertainment, with a touch of social commentary, it’s a blast.
Soon after being schooled in the world of Wall Street excess by his boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), burgeoning stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) finds himself out of work. Keen to make his own mark, Jordan switches tact, and sets up his own firm with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a salesman who lives in his apartment block, dealing exclusively in highly profitable penny stocks. Before he knows it, he has all the riches he’s ever dreamed of, but at a significant price.
Scripted by Terence Winter, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a frenetic and pitch-black portrait of Wall Street excess captured through the eyes of our protagonist, a disdainful man determined to live life to the full no matter the cost. There’s no specific start or end point, and the narrative can’t help but become prone to feelings of repetition and all-too broad characterisations (Jordan is clearly a troubled soul, but no attempt is made to question why) as it skims over the finer details.
Yet, due to the sheer vigor in which the film is executed by Scorsese, and the entertainment value that comes with watching such a despicable man reach the top and then fall so spectacularly right back to the bottom, it’s easy enough to excuse the films lack of moral centre, even if a little more substance would’ve added to the overall effectiveness. But, to pay the film its dues, it does offer some mild social commentary, and always depicts the actions of its subjects as indefensible.
The highest credit, however, must be paid to DiCaprio, who has never been so magnetic. His portrayal of Jordan is spectacular, and he’s ably supported by Hill, Jean Dujardin as Swiss banker and Margot Robbie, who more than holds her own as the only headstrong female of the film. The Wolf Of Wall Street, while not entirely successful, works best when viewed as unadulterated entertainment that flies by in a heady haze of bed-hopping, drug-taking and money-laundering.