GRIFTER: Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a real-life conman who made his fortune by swindling investors.
GRIFTER: Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a real-life conman who made his fortune by swindling investors.
Jonah Hill in a scene from 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.
Jonah Hill in a scene from 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.

The Wolf of Wall Street
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey
RUNNING TIME: 180 minutes
RATING: ****


In a palatial mansion on Long Island, a lone, well-dressed millionaire played in an all-out performance by Leonardo DiCaprio presides virtually unseen over a bacchanal of benumbed excess, the avatar of an age of heedless self-indulgence and greed.

Ah, so the 3D version of The Great Gatsby is being rereleased? Not quite.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’ big, bravura, maddeningly uneven indictment of the extreme financial depredations that characterised the 1990s, DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a real-life swindler and penny-stock conman who made more than $100 million off unwitting investors.

Belfort may embody the same ambition and shadowy ruthlessness as F Scott Fitzgerald’s self-made anti-hero, but he has none of his subtlety or allegorical heft. There’s no enigmatic green light goading Belfort other than the unseen internal one telling him to go, go, go and get more, more, more.

More, in this case, doesn’t just mean money – although in one of Belfort’s several speeches to his employees he suggests that whatever problems they may have, they should solve them by getting rich. As The Wolf of Wall Street makes clear from its first aggressive moments, Belfort is the ultimate empty vessel, a man who can never get enough of anything, whether it’s sex or drugs or validation from the audience he addresses by way of near-constant narration, occasionally breaking the fourth wall for a contemptuous tutorial in Darwinian finance.

Belfort is such a thoroughly loathsome character that it makes The Wolf of Wall Street difficult to process as art, much less entertainment. There’s no doubt that Scorsese is still working at the top of his game, his sheer technical chops and exuberant commitment exerting an insistent, sleeve-tugging pull.

Juxtaposing blues and Afro-pop riffs with shiny nouveau-riche settings and astonishing set pieces, Scorsese evinces the same canny eye and ear that make his movies compulsively watchable, regardless of who or what they’re about. Only a filmmaker of his prowess and infectious energy can make three hours zip by this fast.

But the film’s nominal subjects – Belfort’s ignominious rise (did he ever really fall?) and the gluttonous underbelly of capitalism he represents – aren’t particularly interesting or new. When Belfort joins his future partner, Donnie Azoff (Hill), when he marries his second wife, Naomi (Robbie), when he finally comes under the scrutiny of Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), an even-keel FBI agent, none of those relationships manages to be fully realised. Like DiCaprio’s, they’re superb performances in search of somewhere to go, go, go.

Instead, The Wolf of Wall Street remains one-note even at it’s most outré, an episodic portrait of rapaciousness in which decadence escalates into debauchery escalates into depravity – but, miraculously, not death.

It’s a movie composed of several memorable moments – McConaughey’s deranged Tuvan throat singing as Belfort’s early mentor; a spectacular and cosmically unjust rescue at sea; a tawdry rampage through Las Vegas that costs $2m in hookers, drugs and hotel repairs; Belfort’s degenerate office parties.

The film’s centrepiece is a Keaton-esque sequence in which DiCaprio delivers a druggy feat of physical acting that’s appalling and viciously, viscously funny.

But to what end? The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t implicate the audience in Belfort’s desires, the way Goodfellas seduced viewers with its intimate, textured vignettes of Henry Hill’s life in the Mafia. Belfort is too scuzzy, the material culture he inhabits too bland and superficial, to create that kind of vicarious sympathy. But neither does the film empower its saner voices to give Belfort an adequate dramatic foil. Chandler’s clean-cut FBI agent would have been a perfect Javert to Belfort’s monotonous amorality. As it is, he gets only one or two substantive scenes.

The film maintains an oddly equivocating ethical stance throughout its slide through the muck. On one hand, the makers imply Belfort’s most dehumanising behaviour is what undergirds every Wall Street firm, that behind those stentorian ads and Forbes profiles are just a bunch of tacky, boiler-room bros with their snouts in the trough. But in the final analysis, they pull their punches on Belfort, who appears in the final scene of the movie wielding a microphone.

<&bh"">In Goodfellas, which is Scorsese’s finest plunge into the low life, the film ends on that teasingly ambiguous shot of Ray Liotta’s Mona Lisa smile. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese turns his gaze on the audience itself, suggesting it’s our own avarice – or at least fatal naivete – that creates monsters like Belfort.

Okay, but really? Belfort turned out to be a harbinger years before his more well-heeled but equally crooked colleagues at Manhattan firms cooked up what may be the largest transfer of wealth in human history. And it’s us The Wolf of Wall Street holds accountable?

That laughing sound you hear just out of eye-shot may well be Belfort, having the last howl. - Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

If you liked City of God or American Gangster you will enjoy this.


Dynamic duo a creative force in Hollywood


MOVIE fanatics and critics the world over are enamoured with Emmy and Oscar-winning film-maker Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

The F-bomb riddled and über debauched biopic of Jordan Belfort, a conman who built his fortune by defrauding investors after the crippling financial backlash of Black Monday by selling penny stocks, has already attracted a myriad nominations at several of the forthcoming film awards.

Who better than Scorsese’

lucky mascot, Leonardo DiCaprio (pictured here in The Wolf of Wall Street), whom he first worked with in Gangs of New York back in 2002, to portray the larger-than-life character thriving in a world of insane riches, drugs, sex and corruption? Interestingly, DiCaprio is also credited as a producer on the movie.

Looking at the actor’s titanic rise in Hollywood and the power he wields as an A-list star, its obvious that his chameleon-like abilities have held him in good stead.

He may have started out in commercials and TV shows such as The New Lassie, Santa Barbara, Roseanne and Parenthood, but he broke free of those small screen shackles when he gained his foothold in the cut-throat movie sector with Critters 3.

Even as a teen actor, filmmakers weren’t blind to the intensity and conviction with which he tackled his roles. This was evident in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Basketball Diaries.

After Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation of Romeo + Juliet (1996) and James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) there was no stopping the force that was DiCaprio.

He dazzled in whatever genre was thrown at him – from period to romance to crime to drama to essaying real-life characters in biopics.

DiCaprio really gets into his characters and magnifies their

flaws and accompanying emotions with such commendable dexterity that he constantly raises the bar for himself.

Looking at his iconic roles to date, he has made an indelible impression with his projects Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, J Edgar, The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained.

It also explains why he has enjoyed such an enduring relationship with the Midas of film-making, Scorsese, famed for his gritty and unadulterated surreal depictions of violence and gang wars in five films to date.

While shedding light on the hedonistic lifestyle of his character in The Wolf of Wall Street at a Manhattan, New York, press conference, DiCaprio commented on what it is like working with Scorsese and the filmmaker’s eye for capturing his character.

He said: “With Gangs of New York and since then it’s been this great relationship where we’ve trusted each other more and more and realised we have a lot of similar sensibilities in the type of movie we want to do, and we have an acute understanding for what a scene should be and a lot of times it’s unspoken, but more than that, every day for me it’s just an honour to be on set with somebody like this. I mean, he kind of reinforces in me what movies are all about. Sometimes you forget.

“We were doing a film about pretty disreputable, despicable people and we had a lot of conversations about. ‘Okay, will audiences go along on the journey with us?’ and he said one thing to me I will never forget, it was my mantra through this film, which is: look, as long as you portray these people for what they are, and you don’t try to sugarcoat them, apologise for their actions, or depict them in any way other than authentically what they are, audiences will go along with you. And that was like the green light for the entire process.”

And that, in a nutshell, confirms why DiCaprio and Scorsese make a formidable team that translates into box office successes.

The Wolf of Wall Street simply adds to their kitty and combined prowess! - Debashine Thangevelo