Film review: The Wolf of Wall Street

“For as long as I can remember…”
Telling the rise and fall of penny-stock pusher Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), Wolf of Wall Street may go down in history as the ultimate “film you wouldn’t want to watch with your Granny”. With enough prostitution, drug-taking and expletives to make a western politician blush, Scorsese has truly out-Scorsese’d himself. It’s a tale of hyper-masculinity taken to the extreme, where subtlety is a mythical concept like Sodom or Gomorrah, and the only thing left to the imagination is the wake of destruction left by the farcical multi-million dollar cyclone the characters create. So apart from going “well that’s a bit tasteless” for three hours, what does Wolf of Wall Street have to offer the average viewer?

“What do you mean funny? Funny how?”

The film is hilarious. Not all the time – for about the last hour the story’s complete excess takes its toll on your senses and patience – but for a good two hours there is enough outlandish absurdity onscreen that the odds of your bursting out laughing are high. By the film’s conclusion however you can’t help but think fondly of all the films you’ve seen in your life, even one or two of Marty’s own, that not only made you laugh but also made you feel something.

“Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for the bad guys in the movies”

Beneath the sheen of Scorsese’s testostophilia is the gyrating foundation of Sopranos-alumnus Terrence Winter’s screenplay. To call his characters one-dimensional would be inaccurate because he specialises in reproducing sociopathic minds for the screen, and sociopaths are unfortunately real people too. Instead we’ll say that there is nobody to root for, so the “thrills” we supposedly get from the characters’ exploits dissipate into little wisps of nothing.

As a portrait of an ultimately empty success and the thrill that is inherent to that lifestyle it pales in comparison to Goodfellas. That film gave the audience what it wanted, whereas Wolf of Wall Street gives you what it wants, with all the indulgences that implies. If you go into this film expecting the next Goodfellas, you’ll likely end up feeling a bit like Henry Hill:

“I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup”

In cinemas 17 January 2014.Watch the trailer now on

Stephen Murphy

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