Film review: The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf Of Wall Street

(R) ****

Director: Martin Scorsese.

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley.

EVEN if Martin Scorsese never made another film, his legacy is assured.

From Mean Streets in 1973 - a regular on "best movies ever" lists - through to his under-appreciated 2011 charmer Hugo, the Scorsese name has been a stamp of quality (with only a few mis-steps along the way) for 40 years.

With that in mind, every time legendary director steps behind the camera there are questions: is it up to his usual standard? Is it typically Scorsese? Is he trying something new again? Is it great?

The answer to all these questions is a resounding "yes".

His fifth collaboration with DiCaprio sits within the Scorsese back-catalogue like it was always meant to be there. It's up to his standard, it has moments that are typical of his films (such as the soundtrack and his roaming camera), it's his first laugh-out-loud comedy, and yes, it's great.

DiCaprio plays real-life Wall Street crook Jordan Belfort, who snorted and screwed his way through the '90s as he made millions upon millions of dollars as a stockbroker with a flagrant disregard for the law.

Based on Belfort's own warts-and-all autobiography, it pulls no punches in portraying Belfort as an amoral brat with an unquenchable thirst for sex, drugs and money.

Criticism that the film glorifies his behaviour and shows nothing of the impact his actions had on thousands of hard-working (and gullible) Americans are not unfounded. But that's not the film Scorsese and co-producer/star DiCaprio appear to be making.

This is about the moral and social vacuum Belfort and his cohorts lived in. The real world (ie. where most of us dwell) doesn't exist and there are plenty of cheap voyeuristic thrills to be had in watching how the filthy rich live (with filthy being the key word). Like Belfort himself, the film could be called morally corrupt but at least its entertaining.

As such, there are no big themes here beyond the "greed is bad" credo we've seen in everything from Erich von Stroheim's 1924 silent film Greed to recent Wall Street swipes such as Boiler Room (also based on Belfort's life) to Margin Call.

Where the value lies is in the humour and the performances. Saying this is Scorsese's funniest film is damning it with faint praise - his only other comedy was the black-as-midnight King Of Comedy, which is an under-rated and uncomfortably satirical and prescient gem. The Wolf Of Wall Street is a flat-out funny film (although still very dark) by any director's standards.

DiCaprio's turn is another highlight in this thoroughly entertaining film. His transition from doe-eyed naif to drug-fueled loose cannon and through to the inevitable fall is rivetting, and with superb support from Hill and Aussie discovery Margot Robbie as Belfort's second wife, as well as Chandler, Lumley, Reiner, Dujardin and a seeming cast of thousands.

Does DiCaprio deserve an Oscar? It's as good as any of his other performances that he could have rightfully won Oscars for, so sure, why not?

The only real gripe is the film's length. Scorsese and his long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker seem to be having too much fun and forget to cut out some of the fluff. It's not the fact that it clocks in at one minute short of three hours that makes it too long - it's that in places the film drags, which is the only real indication that a film is too long.

Whenever the pace lags though, the film bounces back with another riotous set piece, and for most of its running time, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a hilariously debauched and enjoyable ride that would seem totally ridiculous if not for the fact that most of it is probably true.

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