The Wolf of Wall Street

Dec 26, 2013

While Leo acts delightfully over the top, Martin directs one of his best films.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Grade: A-

Director: Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver)

Screenplay: Terence Winter (Get Rich or Die Tryin’) from Jordan Belfort book

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Gatsby), Jonah Hill (The Sitter)

Rating: R

Runtime: 179 min.

by John DeSando

“My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.”

For the first third of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, I was watching the best film of the year: Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is on the rise in the stock trading world, he brimming with enthusiasm and cunning and coached by devilish Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), a fast talking broker coach with an eye on personal profit that he makes seem almost ethical. The movie is an entertaining, over-the-top romp around the excesses of Wall Street and one of Martin Scorsese’s best films since Goodfellas. The similarities in style and energy are still there.

In this not quite all true story of Belfort, DiCaprio's  attractive anti-hero reminds me of his exuberant Frank Abignale in Catch Me if You Can, and McConaughey, well, has the third plum role for himself this year, this one the most entertaining without the gravitas of Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey fast talks like a screwball comedy veteran, and to a lesser degree most other  characters do as well.  The language and its pace are delicious.

Even Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s pudgy acolyte (some would say Joe Pesci to Leo’s De Niro), is memorable in a role that will remind you of his turn in Moneyball but with much more attitude. Sales is the name of the game, and even the least educated has a chance given Belfort’s genial coaching.

Scorsese directs acting and cuts scenes expertly with the enthusiasm of a young filmmaker but the class of a lifetime of excellence. This foray into sustained comic tone is matched only with his After Hours. He does it so well that I was laughing most of the way through the film—me a tough guy on comedy.

Granted, the excessive bacchanalia, which uncut earned this film an NC-17, and the one minute shy of 3 hours, might be unnecessary, small flaws in an otherwise spot-on mix of Margin Call and  Stone’s Wall Street.  Although many of us lost too much money because of unscrupulous stockbrokers like Belfort, that world sure looks like fun under the hand of a world-class director.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at