Martin Scorsese's fifth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio is a wild orgy of bacchanalian excess stretched over three hours. I was often exhilarated, and never bored, but I cannot deny feeling a mild queasiness as I left the theatre.
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a real-life stockbroker upon whose memoir this film is based. Belfort's first attempts at Wall Street are the victim of late 80s stock market turmoil, and he soon finds himself peddling junk stocks in a suburban accountant's office. Belfort's driven sense of salesmanship leads to him starting his own "boiler room" of brokers pushing worthless stocks on to gullible buyers.
The business booms and Belfort's empire expands, rendering him wealthy beyond anyone's wildest dreams. But Belfort's insatiable appetite extends beyond money to drugs, women and partying; and the government's interest in the shaky foundations of his business is about to catch up with him. The two previous Scorsese films this evokes most directly are two of his most enjoyable - Goodfellas and Casino. Wolf echoes the former with the main character unashamedly narrating his crash-and-burn life story via voiceover, and the latter with its chronicling of the ins and outs of a corrupt business. But the new film lacks something those earlier films possessed - a sense of distance from the events portrayed, perhaps. Belfort is a truly detestable human being who lacks the rock'n'roll allure of Goodfellas' Henry Hill or the tragic appeal of Casino's Sam Rothstein. DiCaprio's portrayal is impressive, but I mostly just wanted to see his character suffer. That said, there is much filmic wonder to enjoy here, from a variety of outlandish set-pieces to Jonah Hill's hilarious performance as a panting associate of Belfort's. The Wolf of Wall Street is a film that absolutely demands to be seen, you just might not feel all that great about humanity afterwards.