Leonardo DiCaprio has been Martin Scorsese’s muse for over a decade now, but never before have either managed the wild, wanton excess that the story of Jordan Belfort has in abundance. The Wolf Of Wall Street ,based on Jordan Belfort’s bestselling memoir about his days as a young, ruthless Wall Street warlord, pushes all known boundaries in it’s quest to take us on Jordan’s journey and in it’s wake we’re left dazzled by a kinetic whirlwind of a performance from it’s lead.
At the film’s start, working-class Belfort (DiCaprio) is at his first menial Wall Street job, being treated like dirt by his supervisor but getting some sage advice on how to survive in this shark tank by a co-worker (McConaughey in a far-too-brief cameo). When he stumbles across a low-rent brokerage house dealing in penny stocks which, according to the film at least, were often sold by the unscrupulous to working-class Joes looking to get rich quick, Belfort decides to flip the script by trying to sell penny stocks to his old blue-chip customers.
His success is fast and furious and his life turns into a nonstop party, but, what goes up must come down and it isn’t long before he’s attracted the attention of federal agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who’s looking for just the right opportunity to take apart Belfort’s entire operation.
Jordan Belfort is not a likeable character. He has few redeeming qualities, if any, and yet in his eyes he was able to swindle his way to the top by appearing charming, powerful and magnetic, which DiCaprio does effortlessly, unleashing a kind of charisma we’ve never seen from him before. Even when Belfort turns and talks directly to the camera it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a performance, as the actor hypnotizes you with his portrayal.
Daunting as the three hour running time is, credit must be given to Scorsese and his team for the brilliant pace that the film thumps along to. Each scene appears more outrageous, more electrically charged than the preceding one and the outcome is a spectacle that’s hardly been matched for energy before. Yes, there are scenes that go on too long. Yes, Scorsese has trod this territory of young men gone impossibly bad before, but when it’s done this well, there’s little reason to complain.
With all of its excess, The Wolf of Wall Street might not rank up there with Scorsese’s best, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a howling success.
(Images courtesy Universal, Collider, Empire, IMDb)