Full of sex, drugs and amoral characters, but it is fascinating to watch.
More than thirty feature films in, at age 71, Martin Scorsese has never been racier or more risqué. With a charismatically decadent Leonardo DiCaprio going at full throttle in the central role, The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s giddy biopic of stockbroker swindler Jordan Belfort, has all the dazzle and pizzazz of his classic gangster movies – only this time the crooks on screen are pumping and dumping worthless stocks rather than bodies.
Scorsese dines on tales of personal excess and corporate ratbaggery for three frantically paced hours. Two wholesome looking stars (Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort and Jonah Hill as his right-hand man) are the all-American faces of hubris and hedonism, ripping people off en route to permanent liver and sinus damage.
The film starts loud and fast and stays loud and fast. There’s a midget hurled at a target board, a speech by Matthew McConaughey extolling the virtues of cocaine and masturbation, a visit to a strip club, a blowjob performed in a glass elevator in front of cheering businessmen — and then the party begins.
Broadly similar to the rise and fall structure of Casino, except light on the fall, Scorsese’s tone remains unrepentantly smutty until very close to curtain call. The Wolf of Wall Street‘s end credits might as well have been replaced with the words “game over,” such is the flashy thrill of it, the lack of a clearly signposted moral context or message.
It’s exhilarating to watch. Scorsese brings a darkly comic brio to the scenes of coke-snorting, hooker-consorting, dwarf-throwing excess; DiCaprio unexpectedly proves to be a brilliant physical comedian (the hands-down hilarious scene in which the drug-addled, physically wasted Belfort attempts to open the door of his Lamborghini with his foot will leave you equally helpless with laughter); and the supporting performances from the likes of Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey and, yes, Joanna Lumley have real fizz.
Yet enjoyment of the film leaves a nasty aftertaste. Nothing we see on screen suggests that Jordan Belfort is anything other than a vile, sleazy, morally repellent human being, but the fact that he’s the subject of a Scorsese biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio gives him an undeserved glamour.
In the end, the movie comes across as more celebratory than satirical – you can’t help but detect a sneaking admiration for its anti-hero .
RATINGS: * * * * /5