The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese's latest is too busy reveling in excess to consider any moral complexities
As with his wonderfully fluent Goodfellas, which chronicled the rise and fall of real-life gangster Henry Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street sees Martin Scorsese bring exhaustive meticulousness to Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). This dodgy share-trader’s skill at making a fast buck precipitates a similarly precipitous fall from grace. Belfort’s line about how having a ‘Bond-villain boat’ causing him to behave like one is probably the most succinct of a number of lengthy speeches in Terence Winter’s script, all delivered with commitment by DiCaprio.
Belfort begins his career as a newbie to Wall Street, getting a fast education in the merits of avarice and cocaine from high-flying boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) before the downturn on Black Friday turfs him out. Reinventing himself in the world of penny shares, Belfort recruits help in the unlikely form of Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a buck-toothed sidekick happy to enable and share a life of fast cars, nubile women, mind-bending narcotics and illegal trading. But the intervention of the FBI’s Patrick Denham (well played by Kyle Chandler) means that this wolf won’t survive for long.
There’s no lack of effort in the numerous short and memorable scenes that pepper the tapestry of excess that Scorsese’s three-hour film comprises, with highpoints including a wild escapade on Quaaludes and Belfort’s dalliance with his wife’s mother Emma (Joanna Lumley). But the director has examined brotherly love once too many times before. As a major filmmaker, it’s about time Scorsese found some material that stretched his ideas, rather than his audience’s patience. Like its central character, The Wolf of Wall Street is too busy reveling in excess to consider the moral complexities with any depth.
On general release now.