Corruption on the stock exchange is very real and no one captured that better in the 1990’s than Jordan Belfort. So when Martin Scorsese decides to tell that story, he goes all out with three-hours of spectacular chaos. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Cristin Milioti, Jon Faverau and Rob Reiner, this movie follows convicted fraud felon Belfort, and how he built and lost his empire. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
This movie broke the record for the most uses of the f-word. That says a lot about how chaotic it is. The drugs, the sex and the booze are everywhere and it’s very extreme. But also widely entertaining. The extreme world Jordan Belfort is king of needed to be portrayed this way to show just how much power he had. It was a smart and well executed movie that could only be made by Scorsese.
Right off the get go, Scorsese establish how unreliable but convincing Belfort is with his introductory narrative. What car he was driving kept changing because he couldn’t remember what it really was. We then see his first day on Wall St. and every little step he takes while building his wealth is shown. This movie is based off a memoir written by Belfort and his life was so crazy that it’s hard to believe all of this happened.
The parties in the Great Gatsby (also with DiCaprio) are easily dwarfed by what is seen here. And DiCaprio’s Belfort is their leader. When the chaos hits a peak, the company Belfort founded becomes a cult with everyone programed to do whatever Belfort says. The movie shows how anyone from single-mothers to drug dealers to people bored with their jobs can get caught up in the chase for money. And that even with all the chaos and illegal activity, they don’t challenge Belfort. They just follow him blindly to hell.
Hill’s Donnie Azoff is the perfect example of this. He meets Belfort and immediately starts working for him. He is instantly hooked by the draw for money. This guy is completely crazy and Hill gives the performance of his career here. He isn’t out of the Oscar race yet. He’s crude, ignorant and selfish. In a way, it contrasts DiCaprio’s brains behind the operation perfectly. One memorable scene sees Azoff eat a live goldfish. And by that time, it isn’t at all surprising that that’s how he decided to solve the problem. It oddly makes sense.
That’s another great thing about the way Scorcese frames this. Like most popular dramas on TV today (House of Cards, Mad Men, Breaking Bad) the main character is a bad guy, but he is much more fascinating than everyone else around him. This movie is the exact same. Belfort commits countless crimes, but I found myself drawn to him and curious to see what he would do next. But then one scene (which I won’t spoil, but it involves driving impaired) quickly unravels that fantasy and suddenly it becomes clear that it’s not just a joke. He is a danger to society and needs to be stopped. I can’t think of another way they could have framed this story and the genius of Scorsese is he lets the presents all the evidence needed to judge Belfort.
DiCaprio brings much more energy than he usually does and he does a great job in the lead. His fast-talking skills are used for selling, his charm are used for entertaining guests, but his other side of pure evil also gets to show a bit. When he is angry, he gets angry and it’s very easy to not see DiCaprio and just see Belfort. DiCaprio commits to the role, getting naked and snorting something that looks like coke. But he also has some massive speeches where all eyes in the cast are in him. This would have been a very tiring role for DiCaprio and he is very much up to the task.
Being Martin Scorsese has it’s perks. One of them is being able to get together an amazing ensemble cast. Besides DiCaprio and Hill, all the other actors I mentioned at the top appear in small roles as people who hurt or help Belfort. They each get one or two scenes to show off but are mostly in the background or not around at all. A couple of them are very memorable. Rob Reiner as Belfort’s dad is a perfect casting choice. His loud personality is always present to remind Belfort of where he is coming for and the scene where he is introduced is hilarious. Another smart choice is Matthew McConaughey as Belfort’s first boss on Wall St. As seen in the trailer, he has an amazing scene early where he does a line of coke at lunch and then lectures the naive Belfort on how corrupt Wall St. is. This includes whistling and thumping his chest in a sincere way few actors can sell.
There is problem with this movie though and it will keep me from watching it again. At three hours, it is way to long. I didn’t check my watch during the movie, but once it was done and I sat and thought about it, I felt exhausted. While it is very entertaining, the message against corruption is hammered in so hard that I won’t soon forget it. Sometimes movies only need to be seen once to be effective. This is one of those movies.
I don’t recommend this movie to everyone. It is extremely offensive and doesn’t hold back anything. But if you go into it with an open mind, you will see a movie that blasts you with an anti-corruption agenda you won’t soon forget. I recommend everyone experience it just once and see one of Scorsese’s best films. While it’s very revolting, it is also entertaining and important. Which is probably the same for all Scorsese films.