"The Wolf of Wall Street," a tale of unchecked greed and excess, is a movie of superlatives. It's Martin Scorsese's longest, at 179 minutes, and also his raunchiest, with more sex and debauchery than any other he's made. Soon to be famous for showing Leonardo DiCaprio holding a lit candle with no hands, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is the closest Scorsese has come to making an out-and-out comedy.
DiCaprio plays financial fraudster Jordan Belfort, whose fusty-sounding firm, Stratton Oakmont, was actually a pump-and-dump boiler room in Lake Success. A good one, too -- by the age of 26, Belfort was earning nearly $3 million a week, enough to acquire a Ferrari and a centerspread-worthy wife, Naomi (Margot Robbie). As for his victims, Belfort tells us, "Their money was better off in my pockets. I knew how to spend it better."
Scorsese shows us exactly how Belfort spent it: on drugs, prostitutes and lavish parties, often right in the office with his equally depraved colleagues. "Wolf," based on Belfort's post-prison memoir (Kyle Chandler plays the FBI agent who quietly gets his man), wants to paint an emblematic portrait of Wall Street hubris. This, however, is where Scorsese's movie misses its mark.
The mayhem, truth be told, isn't terribly shocking. The atmosphere feels whimsical, with midgets and marching bands -- less Caligula than Fellini. There are a lot of these visually jumbled and high-volume scenes (DiCaprio often screams until he's beet red), and they quickly grow repetitive.
Belfort also seems like the wrong poster boy for today's problems, and not just because he comes from the long-ago 1990s. He's a street kid, a common criminal, whereas the millionaires who fleeced America in 2008 did so legally. Those stories have yet to be compellingly told in the movies; Belfort is merely an entertaining scapegoat.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" has some fine performances, particularly from Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff (loosely based on real-life Stratton staffer Danny Porush), a toothy accountant whose drug habit turns him into a kind of nebbish Hulk. Hill and DiCaprio run through a Quaalude-induced slapstick routine that may become a minor classic. Stay for the closing credits to hear Matthew McConaughey, as Belfort's mystical mentor, Mark Hanna, sum up the whole movie with an original song called "The Money Chant."
PLOT The drug-fueled, sex-crazed life of Long Island-based financial fraudster Jordan Belfort.
RATING R (sex, drug use, language)
CAST Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
BOTTOM LINE Martin Scorsese's epic tale of debauchery feels overlong and sometimes misses its mark, but it's the director's raunchiest, funniest film yet.