The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese at his absolute best - and that's saying a hell of a lot.

14th February 2014

If there's one thing that Leonardo DiCaprio does well, it's playing an obnoxious rich prick with complete disregard for what anybody but himself wants. This is indeed the third film in a row where he has done so: The Wolf of Wall Street sees Leo reunited with favored director Scorsese after a brief stint with the slightly more alternative choices of Baz Lurhman's Great Gatsby (whom he previously worked with in Romeo+Juliet) and Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Jordan Belfort is slightly different from Jay Gatsby and Calvin Candie in that he is also a true-to-life, non-fictional human being. This is the incredible true story of an asshole stockbroker who lets nothing and no-one stop him from doing what he wants to do - which inevitably is to become a bigger asshole day by day.

There is literally no reason to like Jordan Belfort. He embezzles, cheats on his wife, earns more money than is fair and refuses to share any of it, and by all accounts should have died of either HIV or a coke OD before the first half of the film is up: but Scorsese manages to take the lowest scum imaginable and - together with DiCaprio's irrepressible smug charm - manages to turn him into one of the best anti-heroes of the modern age.

It helps that in the first thirty minutes or so he's a pretty genuine guy. He goes into stocks to make money for him and his fiancée, isn't afraid to try and get a job he considers beneath him, and winces when he's referred to as "The Wolf of Wall Street", feeling it portrays him in a negative light. It's not until he meets Donnie Azoff that he starts embracing this newfound persona - he has his first joint, tag-teaming the secretary and defrauds people using penny stocks - all largely from the influence of Jonah Hill's character.

It is unarguably Hill's best ever performance, largely coming from the fact that this is the first role with an ounce of sincerity to it - and it's not a particularly serious film. In fact, the entire film revels in excess to the point of absurdity. It's been both praised and criticised for this: some saying it's drugs and nudity for the sake of drugs and nudity, with another camp saying that this was what life was actually like for stockbrokers in the 80s (and indeed is still so for many today). I went in expecting a lot of drugs and nudity, and I saw even more than I was expecting. It is excessive, and at points probably is just for the sake of it, but it never really feels like it - it feels oddly necessary.

Which brings me on to the performance of lead actress Margot Robbie. If you can get past her extremely poor accent (an Ozzie trying to be American and turning out to be sort of Dutch) she puts in a fantastic performance that will probably catapult her into superstardom. This will no doubt be helped by the fact that she is involved in gratuitous full-frontal nudity and explicit masturbation scenes that make Basic Instinct look like a children's film - I guess it's one way to make a name for yourself in the industry.

This is already a prospect for best film of the year, and out of all of the Oscar-noms this time round it's one that stands out from the typically pompous faux-artistic drivel and actually feels like a film rather than someone's showcase of racial guilt or complete misery that seems to guarantee an award. Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese at his absolute best - and that's saying a hell of a lot.