You can leave your doubts at the door. If you're one of those contemporary Martin Scorsese skeptics who feel like his recent work has diminished greatly, then perhaps the famed director's latest adventure, The Wolf of Wall Street, can set you straight. The undeniable bro-mance between Scorsese and his leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio (who stars in 5 of the filmmaker's previous 6 features), carries on in grandiose fashion. This is both Martin and Leo like you've never seen them before. It's wild, energetic and exactly what the doctor ordered.
Centering on the real-life story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), The Wolf of Wall Street follows the rise and fall of this ambitious and carefree go-getter. Determined to become a millionaire and left jobless after the 1980s stock market crash known as "Black Monday", Belfort dabbles in penny stocks and discovers a way to build an empire. Starting his own company with friend and side-kick Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), the duo lie and cheat there way to the pinnacle of success, only to find themselves under the watchful eye of the FBI.
For the most part, Scorsese's elongated three-hour affair moves swiftly through the life of Belfort thanks in large part to a surprising amount of comedy infused into the screenplay. The humor is consistent and never-ending, from the moment the film opens, all the way to its final scene. It's misleading to label The Wolf of Wall Street as a drama. Scorsese and company understand that the film's tiresome length and overall success hinge on the effectiveness of its comedic tone. One that is delivered with such excellence and precision. The dialogue is off the charts and the flow is rhythmic, enough so to keep any audience comfortably tuned in to the movie. Furthermore, The Wolf of Wall Street isn't only an enticing and hilarious spectacle for its viewers, the entire cast obviously had a blast while filming all of Scorsese's designed debauchery. It isn't difficult to spot laughs and smiling faces from the "extras" on screen, a sure sign of a fun-filled affair. And although the director's long-time friend and film companion, Leonoardo DiCaprio, is given the keys to the ride, it's actually co-star Jonah Hill who stands out most among the plethora of fine performances. Hill, who has been mostly ignored throughout the early going of this awards season race, offers his finest performance to date, one that will be remembered for its expansive range. Hysterical, dramatic and everything in between, Jonah Hill is certainly deserving of a Best Supporting Actor Nomination. All in all, The Wolf of Wall Street just may be the most engaging three hours you'll ever spend in a movie theatre.
Despite completely captivating its audience, Scorsese's newest feature has a few select shortcomings. For starters, Leo is more than fine in his leading role, however, the gifted actor never creates a sympathetic character. And as a result, The Wolf of Wall Street suffers in the drama-department and relies solely on humor. This is all well and good, yet there's another deeper element that's missing, perhaps one that could have catapulted The Wolf of Wall Street to insurmountable heights. But instead, the credits roll with an unfulfilled conclusion and a gaping disconnect between Belfort and the viewer, which may surely hurt the film during a long journey to the Academy Awards.
Martin Scorsese is a genius and an artist. He envisioned an epic tale of ambition and greed during a period when our nation's economy finds itself struggling to sustain. The timing is perfect for his feature. When the cinematic year has been flooded with mainly cerebral and emotional options, we're handed a seductive treat. With a surplus of nudity and enough cocaine on screen to put the entire country of Columbia to shame, I'm amazed that The Wolf of Wall Street only received an R-rating. But no matter what the MPAA says, be sure to buckle up and prepare for a wild ride, as Marting Scorsese returns to form and delivers the goods.