Greed has been a motivating factor in so much of real life and the fictional life we often see portrayed on screen. In modern times, the quintessential personification of greed was Gordon Gekko, the stockbroker played to great effect (and many awards) by Michael Douglas in 1987. But, while it had elements of truth, that was mainly fiction. Here greed is portrayed in a truer story based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street, with a script by Terence Winter.
Born in the Bronx, NY, Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) founded Stratton Oakmont, a boiler room operation employing mover than 1,000 brokers peddling penny stocks. The notoriety of the company inspired the 2000 movie Boiler Room. Along the way Belfort became addicted to cocaine, quaaludes and a pharmacy-worth of other drugs. He impresses and then recruits Donnie Azoff (a wonderful Jonah Hill) to work with him and together they rise and fall.
On the way up, Jordan trades in his sweet wife for Naomi (Margot Robbie), a flashy blonde who is not shy about on-camera nudity. In fact, the only fault with The Wolf of Wall Street is the misogyny in it. In the wake of the Stratton Oakmont scandal, we’ve come to expect bigger and worse from our financial “geniuses.”
The casting is clever and performances excellent. Matthew McConaughey is excellent as Mark Hanna, the broker who gives Jordan his first Wall Street job and Rob Reiner is very good as Jordan’s father. Kyle Chandler is appropriately straight as the FBI agent who leads the investigation into Beaufort.
Director Martin Scorsese is in fine form here. This movie is shorter than his Las Vegas opus, Casino. That was three hours. This is a mere 179 minutes. But, it goes quickly and every minute is worth it. The acting is — although DiCaprio is sometimes waaaay too loud — consistently good and the setting — New York and Long Island — is gorgeous.
Despite the length, The Wolf of Wall Street is never boring and is consistently interesting. See it.