Jordan Belfort is about as vile of a human being as they come. He’s an amoral, materialistic, greedy, drug-addicted criminal. He is not a guy you root for to win. Yet, he’s extremely fascinating.
Belfort is the subject of The Wolf of Wall Street, an atypical comedy movie from Martin Scorsese. However, Scorsese’s comedy is more of the dark twisted humor variety, and not silly goofball stuff like Anchorman 2.
Its release marks the fifth time Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese have worked together (The Departed, Shutter Island, The Aviator, Gangs of New York). Watching Leo play Jordan Belfort is what makes the movie fun. This is certainly one of his best, if not the best, performances. He has come a long way from being a teen heartthrob in Titanic. Though I doubt he’ll win an Oscar because his character is just too deplorable. I think those Academy folks will lean toward a more sympathetic character, like Chiwetel Ejiofor from 12 Years a Slave. But maybe I’ll be surprised.
I was quite concerned about the three-hour runtime going in, and while the movie was long, I was almost sad to see it end. I was also concerned it’d be like a rehashing of Wall Street given some of the timeline is similar (the 1980s).
Belfort’s love of money is evident from the get-go. When he loses his first Wall Street job after the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash, Belfort responds to an ad looking for stockbrokers on Long Island. Turns out these guys are perpetuating penny-stock frauds. Belfort’s slick sales skills make him a penny stock success, and soon he takes his scam to the big time, opening up his own investment firm, Stratton Oakmont, and bringing along his friends for the ride. There, he engages in more fraud and money laundering.
His main go-to guy is Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), who probably is as despicable as Belfort. Hill puts in quite a memorable performance. Another great performance came from Matthew McConaughey, who was in the movie for only a few minutes, but managed to steal the scene. He plays a mentor to young Jordan at his first Wall Street job.
Eventually, the eyes of the SEC and FBI land on Belfort and Stratton Oakmont. FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins investigating Belfort, intent on taking him down.
Besides money, Belfort also loves sex (hookers in particular) and drugs (Quaaludes are his drug of choice). He cruelly cheats on his first wife with the beautiful Naomi (Margot Robbie) and ends up marrying Naomi, who knowingly puts up with Belfort’s dirty dealings.
The movie definitely pushes the R-rating about as far as it can. There is some graphic nudity and eyebrow-raising sex scenes. And then mix in the drug use and you have some really adult stuff going on.
Riveting though it may be, this movie unfortunately glorifies what this guy did. I could see some impressionable folks being enchanted by the lavish lifestyle, hookers and drugs on display in this film. I certainly hope no one sees Jordan Belfort as a role model, but that’s the danger with glorifying such a despicable character. ••
Movie Grade: A-