In the late-80s to mid-90s, Jordan Belfort made a killing selling penny stocks to optimistic suckers with the promise that they’d someday achieve financial stability, or even, financial excess. However, in the time Belfort began aggressively peddling these stocks under his own company, to the stockbroker’s eventual arrest for twenty one counts of money laundering (among countless other crimes), he was the only one who underwent any “excess.” So is the story of Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s ruthlessly confident and supremely addictive film of sex, drugs, lies, numbers and persuasion, as well as the best film Scorsese has released in over a decade.
Clocking in at 179 minutes, The Wolf of Wall Street makes for Scorsese’s longest film yet, as well as his most wildly entertaining. There’s never a dull moment when you’re watching this film – whether it’s a never-been-better Jonah Hill (as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s right-hand man) on a slow-motion Quaalude high, or one of the many sexually-charged parties Belfort throws for his employees, every single second gives you something new and increasingly vulgar to sink your teeth into. Throw in a commanding screenplay by “Sopranos” writer, Terence Winter and a bevy of excellent supporting performances from Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner and Matthew McConaughey (including many others), and you have a piece that captures engaging cinema at its finest.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives what can only be described as the most viciously authoritative performance you’ll find in 2013. He brings a devilish swagger to the film that had the potential to either make or break this film; and not only does it work, it gives the film that much more of a boost. DiCaprio’s progression from a pencil-pushing confidence-free stockbroker to the seedy, coked-out scum of the Earth we’re left with feels well-suited and hits the right tone every single time, making Belfort the anti-hero for our time. Though Belfort’s despicable nature only makes him more deserving of his sentencing at the end of the film, he does, however, leave us with the taste of the American Dream – showcasing the confidence that everybody hopes to one day attain.
Undoubtedly, the film will be subject to criticism for its nearly three-hour length (almost twenty minutes longer than the latest Hobbit film), as well as its rampant vulgarity, sexual content, foul language and glorified drug content. And yes, I’d be lying if I said that you won’t start to feel your ass numb up by the time the third act rolls around. The payoff that this film provides, however, is more than enough to make up for that fact. It’s a terrific piece of cinema that parades its way through a debacle of perverse accounts of corporate misconduct, with every single second being necessary to provide us with the outstanding finished product.
All in all, The Wolf of Wall Street proves to be one of the strongest films to come out of 2013. It takes the biggest risks, allowing for the biggest rewards, making for an ultimately satisfying bravura of filmmaking.
Review by Landon Defever