Nobody tells a New York story better than Martin Scorsese. But his latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, isn’t just a great New York story: it’s a great movie.
The wolf in “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a man named Jordan Belfort, and the movie is based on his book of the same name. Belfort, who spent 22 months in prison, is now a motivational speaker, and if you take a few minutes to search YouTube and find any of his interviews or speeches, the reason for his success, and his rapid rise to mutli-millionaire-law-breaking stockbroker, becomes apparent. He’s what Tony Robbins would have been, if Robbins had no moral compass.
When it comes to Belfort’s time on Wall Street, we’re talking serious excess, and Scorsese, along with Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, team up to render said excess with an unflinching ferocity that is as relentlessly entertaining as it is engaging.
In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” whose meaty and audacious script is courtesy of Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire writer Terrance Winter, we watch a charming young Belfort start out as a stock broker’s assistant. He puts in his time to become a broker, only to be unlucky enough to have his first official day fall on Black Monday, the stock market crash of 1987.
A few months later, Belfort takes a job at a Long Island storefront penny stock operation and soon realizes he can, essentially, bilk hard-working blue collar folks out of thousands of dollars. Belfort recruits Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff and childhood friends to start his own boiler room operation, and it becomes so successful, he turns it into a full-fledged Wall Street firm.
Scorsese chronicles what seems like every dirty detail of Belfort’s rise, most notably the drugs, the hookers, and his second marriage to Naomi, played by the otherworldly Margo Robbie. She’s an Australian actress who does a better Brooklyn accent than most people from Brooklyn (I’m from Brooklyn). The film is simply delicious, and even at just under three hours’ running time, it leaves you wanting more.
DiCaprio goes for broke in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” He is so fully vested in this character that it’s as if Belfort took over the actor’s body and ate his soul. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if, after filming wrapped up, Scorsese had to call in a priest — and Jim Cramer — to perform some sort of Wall Street exorcism. In addition, let’s talk about Jonah Hill: he was very good in “Moneyball,” but no one is ever going to convince me that was an Oscar-worthy performance. But Hill’s Donnie Azoff is most certainly that. Like DiCaprio’s Belfort, it’s the performance of Hill’s career.
The ongoing partnership between Scorsese and DiCaprio is one of cinema’s best, and just keeps getting better. Five out of five stars.