New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort is the type of guy who likes to have his cake and eat it, too. He’s such a junkie for mayhem and excess that it’s easy to liken him to a “Goodfella”-“Gatsby” wannabe. With “The Wolf of Wall Street,” director Martin Scorsese faces a task unlike any he’s ever attempted – bring Belfort’s Olympian true story to life with all the pomp and circumstance that it deserves. The director succeeds to a fault.
This is Scorsese’s funniest, most ambitious, most energetic film in years – if not of his career. The film never boasts a boring moment, and at three hours, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is more than a movie – it’s a marathon experience. Just like in a real marathon, the film runs on sheer adrenaline – the richest runner’s high coming from Leonardo DiCaprio’s dynamic, energetic performance as Belfort. However, fatigue sets in by the film’s final act, which makes me think how much better “TWOWS” might’ve been if it had been trimmed by even a half hour. (It’s no secret that the film has faced controversy regarding the editing of its content. Scorsese was forced to cut several sex scenes to avoid an NC-17 rating, which would’ve effectively doomed the picture to box office hell and ruined practically any chance at Oscar gold.)
There’s simply far too much crammed in here, and not all of it is consistently realistic. Belfort’s life is full of so much off-the-wall stuff that it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction. I could’ve done without a few sex scenes that were played for laughs, but really served no purpose in the overall narrative, like the butler’s orgy. There’s also an absurd sequence which takes place on Belfort’s 170-foot yacht during a storm that looks and feels like something out of “Titanic.” It just doesn’t seem true at all. If the plot was as smooth and streamlined as that ostentatious yacht, “TWOWS”might be the year’s best film. It’s certainly the most original I’ve seen thus far. However, for me, Scorsese’s best since “Goodfellas” remains “Shutter Island” – a criminally underrated psychological thriller, also starring DiCaprio.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in “TWOWS” may be the best of his career, but I doubt it will be enough to finally earn him an Oscar. There have been too many great leading performances this year. The Gold will most likely go to Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave” or Tom Hanks for either “Captain Phillips” or “Saving Mr. Banks.”
As for “The Wolf of Wall Street”’s other players, Jonah Hill’s character is an annoying douchebag, as well as all the other sleazy individuals with which Belfort aligns himself. My favorite supporting performers were Rob Reiner as Jordan’s tough-loving father, Max Belfort and Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna, Jordan’s mentor at his first ever Wall Street job. For McConaughey, this is a hilarious bit part that allows him to show off some of the classic cowboy charisma that made him famous. I wish he was in it for longer than 10 minutes. Margot Robbie also fares nicely as Belfort’s femme fatale, Naomi, with a performance that hearkens back to Lorraine Bracco’s in “Goodfellas.”
Believe it or not, “The Wolf of Wall Street” makes a strong case for being the funniest movie of 2013. Lots of it is gleefully self-referential, and DiCaprio does his best Henry Hill impersonation with a clever, razor-sharp voiceover. He even breaks the fourth wall on occasion. That said, this is strictly a guys-only night at the multiplex. The film is jacked up on so much testosterone and adrenaline (among other, more synthetic substances) that it’ll leave you ready for a workout by the end. That is, if it doesn’t burn you out on a three-hour marathon of sex, drugs and alcohol first.