Jordan Belfort was a penny-stock billionaire who squandered his illicitly acquired loot on helicopters, mansions, yachts and prostitutes, and he’s made
Martin Scorsese his most recent mark.
As Belfort, allegedly the Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio pummels the material like Jake LaMotta. As DiCaprio closes in on 40, he’s trying to fill the place Jack Nicholson once had as kamikaze actor, devil and joker. He goes big—shoving his jaw forward and flipping out like a business-suit-clad Mussolini. What can possibly be next?
Belfort is first an entry-level stockbroker, briefly trying to do it the honest way before becoming a cold-calling salesman selling worthless securities: “garbage to garbage men.” At his side is henchman Donnie (Jonah Hill), a mook with unnaturally bleached teeth and a circular family tree.
There’s room, during Belfort’s climb from obscurity to zillionaire vulgarian, for supporting actors: Matthew McConaughey as a pleasantly cool stockbroker, the genuinely lupine Jean Dujardin
as a Swiss banker and Joanna Lumley as a gracious British aunt
who turns currency smuggler. Kyle Chandler (the drunk father in
The Spectacular Now) does some superb Columbo-ing as a superficially friendly FBI agent investigating Belfort.
Some of this is inimitable Scorsese—extreme, drooling beastliness, Belfort knocking his brains out with ‘ludes, reviving himself with cocaine as the “Popeye” fanfare plays. But this doesn’t seem like ’70s wacky nihilism as much as a man trying to tap into the Frat Pack. Also, this movie just won’t end. The display of tramp-flesh—hundreds of hired nudes—is ultimately skeevy. And the details of Belfort’s scam aren’t diabolical, either. Money is the end-all to him, and it’s expected to be that way for us. The way it’s explained to us, it’s like we’re considered too stupid to care how Belfort got it all.
‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ opens in wide release on Dec. 25.