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The Wolf of Wall Street - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published January 26th 2014
Di Caprio wolfs down his latest role
Director: Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed, Hugo)
Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey

At 71, Martin Scorsese shows no sign of mellowing. Wolf of Wall Street is the kind of exuberant, anarchic romp that filmmakers half his age wish they could make.

Leonardo Di Caprio Wolf Wall St
Leonardo Di Caprio as playboy stockbroker Jordan Belfort

If the 1987 film Wall Street opened a door to the world of morally ambivalent stockbrokers, then Scorsese's film strips naked and dives face first into that world, rolling around gratuitously in all its grotesque hedonism. It's a dizzy, intoxicating experience filmed with such style and energy that for the most part you find yourself laughing at the characters despite the dubious nature of their activities.

Real-life Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who was also the inspiration for Boiler Room, here is played by Leonardo Di Caprio. We join him in the mid 1980s where he is just starting his career. After some key advice on how to gain and enjoy success from a colourful colleague (Matthew McConaughey, clearly yet to put the pounds back on after his turn as the emaciated Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club), Belfort, like most of his peers, loses his job in the great financial crash of 1987. It turns out to be but a brief setback for the budding entrepreneur who starts from the bottom again and becomes a self-made millionaire.

Leonardo Di Caprio Wolf Wall St
Creative money laundering with Jordan Belfort and co.

This is the 5th time that Scorcese has directed Di Caprio, and the actor has never been better than he is here. Whether he's being charming, arrogant, inspirational of merely off his chops, he's never less than compelling.

He's ably assisted by Jonah Hill as his eager to please sidekick, equally out of control in this new-found universe of unlimited pleasures. It's ironic that for a film about excessive riches, Hill was paid a mere $60,000 for his Oscar nominated performance.

Neighbours graduate Margot Robbie, apart from looking stunning, is totally convincing as a New Jersey good time girl whose looks gain her access to play with the big boys. You can see her drop her Aussie accent and adopt the Jersey drawl mid-sentence in this great interview.

wolf wall st jonah hill
Jonah Hill got paid union scale to play the infinitely richer Donnie Azoff

Like all cautionary tales of decadent lifestyles, the film is a lot more entertaining on the way up than it is once the consequences of so much thoughtless greed catches up with the titular wolf. While there are many stand-out scenes of inspired, edgy humour, at three hours you wish that Scorsese had shown a little more economy than our anti-hero and shaved a bit off the top.

Wolf has made history for containing more profanity than any other film. I have to say, after a while you don't even notice it. You become so desensitised to everything that's happening, the last thing you're thinking about is the swearing. Maybe that's just me. As an R rated film, you wouldn't be taking any toddlers to it, but the language is hardly off-putting.

Neither is the soundtrack, which is crammed with a diverse range of indie hits from the 80s and 90s as well as blues and jazz originals and covers. It's a toe-tapping mix that keeps the energy pumping in a film that despite its length, seldom takes its foot off the throttle.

Judging by the extreme reactions on either end of the scale, this is not a film for all tastes. You will either love it or hate it, but you won't know which if you don't see it.

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Why? Scorsese and Di Caprio in full flight
Where: At cinemas everywhere
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