The word that best describes Martin Scorsese’s new film is ‘outrageous’. It is based on the true story of a Wall Street stock broker named Jordan Belfort who used semi-legal and illegal business practices to turn himself into a multi-millionaire in a few short years. The Wolf of Wall Street gives us another real-life character possessing the wonderful traits of Ron Woodroof at the beginning of Dallas Buyers Club: Belfort is a drug addict, a sex addict, a racist, a sexist and altogether crazy. But in this story, our protagonist never really changes (though efforts are made).
The Wolf of Wall Street will appeal to few of our readers and I will recommend it to none, despite outstanding performances by Leonardo DiCaprio (probably his best ever, and that’s saying something) as Belfort and Jonah Hill as his closest associate and friend (and a wonderful cameo by Matthew McConaughey, his third great performance in 2013). The film has a number of brilliant and often hilarious scenes which are almost worth the price of admission, but these are overshadowed by numerous scenes which are either disgusting or boring and are ultimately a waste of time. For this film to work for me at all, it should have been at least an hour shorter (and I am a fan of longer films).
I say this because for The Wolf of Wall Street to be called a good and worthy Scorsese film, it needs to be viewed as an over-the-top dark comedy that satirizes the ‘outrageous’ lifestyles of the wealthy as well as the greed and corrupt behaviour of Wall Street and Swiss banks. At a maximum of two hours, such a satire might have succeeded, but at three hours the disgusting behaviour is too overwhelming and you just leave with a bad taste in your mouth (at least that’s what I did).
Again, the film might have worked if it had even a smidgeon of heart, but it has none whatsoever. I can watch a cold heartless film for ninety minutes but not for three hours, even if it’s outrageous. For those who enjoy outrageous dark comedies or want to see DiCaprio’s great performance, you should also know that I have never seen an American film with so much foul language or full frontal nudity. In some films, that might have been described as refreshing, but in The Wolf of Wall Street it felt like a gratuitous addition to an already overindulgent enterprise.
While the brilliant hilarious scenes I mentioned might be worth a second look, I can’t imagine sitting through the whole film again to see those scenes, so The Wolf of Wall Street gets a whopping **+ from me (sorry to all you Scorsese fans; I, too, am a big Scorsese fan who has given almost all of his films either ***+ or ****). My mug is down.