The Wolf of Wall Street is a story of the ultimate greed and excess in wealth that led Jordan Belfort (played exquisitely by Leonardo DiCaprio), showing us how the journey that he makes from a lowly sales caller to a top tier stock broker. When his firm closes after the crash of '89, he goes out on his own, starting up Stratton Oakmont, a Long Island-based, free-for-all, full of personally-trained brokers spending all the money they make on hookers, blow and Quaaludes.
Martin Scorsese outdoes himself with this movie. When we think of the subject of the stock market in a movie, we remember Oliver Stone's Wall Street and its sequel or smaller films like Margin Call and Boiler Room, but The Wolf of Wall Street proves there's still a lot more stories to tell.
Based on Jordan Belfort's autobiographical book of the same name and staying fairly faithful to many of the key moments, The Wolf of Wall Street is a very different movie from those mentioned - a lot more edgier, far more modern, probably closer to the realities of the stock market and the behaviour of stock brokers, which still goes on to an extent today than some of what we've previously seen on film.
Scorsese's fifth pairing with Leonardo DiCaprio is a very different movie for them as well, because however you slice it, this is definitely meant to be a comedy, maybe more than anything Scorsese has done in years. Granted, he's always had funny and amusing scenes and moments in almost all his movies, but translating Belfort's story to the screen leads to a hilarious take you to a high, that always carries an undercurrent of sadness to think how far greed can lead a man astray.
DiCaprio has already proven himself as a mature actor who can add real weight to any meaty role, and that's especially true with his Jordan Belfort, a man whose every word we hang upon - it doesn't hurt that Terrence Winter's adaptation is up there with some of the best screenplays Scorsese has directed. Three hours of sex, nudity and drugs would definitely get tiring, but DiCaprio really sells us on this character and makes every scene count. Some of his most memorable moments are with the arrival of Jordan's second wife Naomie, a knockout blonde with Victoria's Secret looks and a thick Long Island accent, assembled in the form of Margot Robbie (who previously appeared in the now cancelled Pan Am) giving her most memorable performance. DiCaprio really gets to let loose during Belfort's own "Greed is Good" speeches to try to motivate his brokers, and this is where having an open collaborator like Scorsese really gives the actor a chance to shine.
While cocaine does play a huge part in the menagerie of drugs Jordan takes throughout the movie to stay on top of his game, quaaludes (fondly referred to as "ludes" throughout the movie, are given the centre stage spotlight in a couple gut-busting scenes with Jonah Hill, whose portrayal of the waspiest Jew ever portrayed on screen is an image that's hard to erase from your brain afterwards. The rest of the cast playing Jordan's cronies, particularly PJ Byrne and Jon Bernthal, also help bring the characters from Belfort's bio and Winter's words to life. By comparison, Matthew McConaughey's role is a fairly small one, really only appearing in one or two scenes near the beginning of the movie, but they're fairly memorable ones that have a huge impact on Belfort's later Modus Operandi. One of the more unconventional casting decisions that actually works brilliantly is Rob Reiner as Belfort's always-irate father, 'Mad Max,' a character who also appears in two scenes that are so funny you probably will wish to see more of him. There's a similarly welcome turn by Joanna Lumley of Absolutely Fabulous.
Midway, the movie transitions into the FBI and SEC's investigation of Belfort's practices, which lead to some fun scenes between DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler that hark back to Leo's earlier movie Catch Me If You Can. At that time, Belfort also starts taking his dealings international as he tries to hide his millions from the government in a Swiss account, managed by Jean Dujardin's sleazy bank manager.
Get ready, this is not a movie not for the easily-shocked!