According to the Internet Movie Database, The Wolf of Wall Street drops the F-bomb more times than any other Scorsese film at 506
utterances. But then, profanity is probably the least profane aspect of the legendary director’s latest collaboration with star Leonardo
DiCaprio. The film features constant drug use, graphic sexual situations, and more full-frontal nudity than you’ll probably ever see outside
It’s also an outrageously entertaining film that falls just short of being among Scorsese’s very best.
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker with the single-minded goal of making as much money as possible, without any consideration
of ethics or legality.
Belfort is taken under the wing of sleazy veteran broker Mark Hanna (A hilarious Matthew McConaughey).
Hanna imparts his wisdom on the tricks of the trade including his own schedule for pleasuring himself and regular cocaine use.
After the market crash of the 80s, Belfort, out of his lust for excess and desperation, starts his own company selling garbage stocks to
gullible people while reaping huge commissions.
The company explodes and Belfort almost instantly becomes a super-rich, arrogant sleazebag that puts even Hanna to shame.
The film portrays its brokers as crass, perverted scumbags, and shows how this detached group constantly enables their own horrific
Belfort is chief among them, diving headlong into substance abuse among other less than savory endeavors.
Perhaps most surprising is how funny the film is in spite of its despicable characters.
DiCaprio is brilliantly cast here (Although based on his work over the past decade, it’s hard to imagine him being miscast anywhere). His
charm and humor is absolutely magnetic, and he makes this villain far more likable than he should be.
His horrible behavior consistently escalates. Unethical practices become illegal activity, and his enjoyable vices turn into total self-
While I won’t criticize the film for glamorizing bad behavior, I do think its greatest flaw is that it doesn’t fully explore the consequences of
these actions at much more than a superficial level.
In this year’s excellent American Hustle, there is at least a minimal attempt at giving its sketchy characters moments of reflection. The Wolf
of Wall Street makes no apologies for its characters and at nearly three hours long, it feels like an incomplete portrait by short-changing the
This is what keeps the film from truly reaching greatness and transcending its genre.
As great as DiCaprio is, his character never feels fully explored because the film, like its characters, is so self-indulgent; focusing to the
point of obsession on the Belfort’s insane, crass antics.
Luckily, overlong self-indulgence is still pretty great when it’s from Scorsese. He brilliantly immerses us in this culture in which pretention
and sleaze go hand-in-hand.
At the age of 71, Scorsese’s edginess and energy is as infectious as ever. His trademark understated, creative visuals are seamless, but
He gets excellent performances out of his entire cast. In addition to DiCaprio and McConaughey, Jonah Hill is very funny as Belfort’s cohort
Donnie Azoff. The pair takes part in one of the film’s most memorable sequences in which the two overdose on expired Quaaludes. It’s a
great example of the film’s ultra-dark comedy.
Margot Robbie is also great (and pretty much fearless) as Belfort’s wife, Naomi. The film’s best dramatic moments involve their quickly
unravelling relationship. A scene where a high Belfort tries to leave with one of his children after Naomi asks for a divorce is the closest
the film comes to bringing an ounce of reality to the character’s madness. It’s a powerful sequence, but the rest of the film doesn’t follow
through. As entertaining as it is, it’s all slightly hollow as a result.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an outstanding, tasteless comedy. Given its great cast and epic length, only the lack of a true dramatic bite keeps
it from being a masterpiece. It’s still well worth seeing, and is another fantastic film from Scorsese and DiCaprio. The filmmaking may be as
excessive and gluttonous as the title character himself, but it’s a wildly funny and engaging ride all the way.
* * * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Terence Winter
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie,
Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner
Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto
Released: December 25, 2013; 180 Minutes