Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort
Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia
Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna
Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff
Jon Bernthal as Brad
Jean Dujardin as Jean-Jacques Saurel
Rob Reiner as Max Belfort
Kenneth Choi as Chester Ming
P.J. Byrne as Nicky Koskoff
Jake Hoffman as Steve Madden
Cristin Milioti as Teresa Petrillo
Jon Favreau as Manny Riskin
Ethan Suplee as Toby Welch
Shea Whigham as Captain Ted Beecham
Spike Jonze as Dwayne
Madison McKinley as Heidi
Kyle Chandler as Patrick Denham
Joanna Lumley as Aunt Emma
Katarina Cas as Chantalle
Christine Ebersole as Leah Belfort
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes his way on Wall Street up from a lowly caller to a top stock broker, but when his firm closes after the crash of ’89, he goes out on his own, starting up Stratton Oakmont, a Long Island-based, free-for-all, full of personally-trained brokers spending all the money they make on hookers, blow and Quaaludes.
What fantastic cinematic times we live in when we can watch David O. Russell do his best Martin Scorsese impression with his ripped-from-old-headlines comedy “American Hustle” and then the one true master comes along with a movie that proves that no one does Scorsese like Scorsese himself. Of course, when one treads the subject of the stock market in a movie, one immediately thinks that ground has been well covered with the likes of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” and its sequel or smaller films like “Margin Call” and “Boiler Room,” but “The Wolf of Wall Street” proves there’s still a lot more stories to tell.
Based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiographical book of the same name and staying fairly faithful to many of the key moments, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a very different movie from those mentioned – far edgier, far more modern and of the times and probably closer to the realities of the stock market and the behavior of stock brokers (at least in the 90s) then some of what we’ve previously seen on film.
Scorsese’s fifth pairing with Leonardo DiCaprio is a very different movie for them as well, because however you slice it, this is definitely meant to be a comedy, maybe more than anything Scorsese has done in years. Granted, he’s always had funny and amusing scenes and moments in almost all his movies, but translating Belfort’s story to the screen leads to a hilarious film that always carries an undercurrent of sadness to think how far greed can lead a man astray.
DiCaprio has already proven himself as a mature actor who can add real weight to any meaty role, and that’s especially true with his Jordan Belfort, a man whose every word we hang upon – it doesn’t hurt that Terrence Winter’s adaptation is up there with some of the best screenplays Scorsese has directed. Three hours of sex, nudity and drugs would definitely get tiring, but DiCaprio really sells us on this character and makes every scene count, whomever he happens to be interacting with at the given time. Some of his more memorable moments are with Jordan’s second wife Naomie, a knockout blonde with Victoria’s Secret looks and a thick Long Island accent, assembled in the form of Margot Robbie (“Pan Am”) who gives her most memorable performance. DiCaprio really gets to let loose during Belfort’s own “Greed is Good” speeches to try to motivate his brokers, and this is where having an open collaborator like Scorsese really gives the actor a chance to shine.
While cocaine does play a part in the menagerie of drugs Jordan takes throughout the movie to stay on top of his game, quaaludes are given the center stage spotlight in a couple gut-busting scenes with Jonah Hill, whose portrayal of the WASPiest Jew ever portrayed on screen is an image that’s hard to erase from your brain afterwards. The rest of the cast playing Jordan’s cronies, particularly PJ Byrne and Jon Bernthal, also help bring the characters from Belfort’s bio and Winter’s words to life. By comparison, Matthew McConaughey’s role is a fairly small one, really only appearing in one or two scenes near the beginning of the movie, but they’re fairly memorable ones that have a huge impact on Belfort’s later M.O. One of the more unconventional casting decisions that actually works brilliantly is Rob Reiner as Belfort’s always-irate father, “Mad Max,” a character who also appears in two scenes that are so funny you probably will wish to see more of him. There’s a similarly welcome turn by Joanna Lumley of “Absolutely Fabulous.”
About halfway through the movie, just as some might start tiring of Belfort’s excesses, the movie transitions into the FBI and SEC’s investigation of Belfort’s practices, which lead to some fun scenes between DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler that hark back to Leo’s earlier movie “Catch Me If You Can.” At that time, Belfort also starts taking his dealings international as he tries to hide his millions from the government in a Swiss account, managed by Jean Dujardin’s sleazy bank manager.
Incidentally, it’s easy to see why Scorsese could very well have had issues with the MPAA on this one, because he rarely flinches when it comes to showing sex and nudity, of which there’s a lot, making it a movie not for the easily-shocked.
The only minor criticism one might have for the movie is that there’s no real emotional core that makes the viewer feel empathy for Belfort’s situation, but maybe that’s a good thing. The same could very well have been said about Daniel Day-Lewis’ character in “There Will Be Blood,” but like that character, we’re fascinated by every move Belfort makes. While we’re fully aware that every one of his bad decisions will lead to future repercussions, he’s another one of those film characters whose rise and fall is far too entertaining for us to condone even his worst behavior.
The Bottom Line:
Few will be surprised to see how well Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio shoehorn their collaborative relationship into a brilliantly witty take on the world of the stock market, although fewer will be expecting a film that’s on par with Scorsese classics like “Goodfellas” and “Casino.”