Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. All three intertwine in director Martin Scorsese's entertaining new masterpiece "The Wolf of Wall Street," a film about a stockbroker who defrauded investors for five years. The greedy stockbroker, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), was eventually arrested and sent to prison for a mere 23 months, less than his original sentence, on account of giving up the names of his fellow workers who all had their own share of thievery.
"Wolf" chronicles the rise and fall of Belfort, who, as a young rookie in Wall Street, learned some corrupt methods from his first boss Mark Hanna (a hilarious Matthew McConaughy.) Eventually, Belfort became a moneymaking machine at Stratton Oakmont, a firm he jumpstarted with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), who would become his longtime partner in crime, business and pleasure. Belfort's firm was known to sell penny stocks, from which the stockbroker makes 50 percent of the commission, as compared to 1 percent in regular Wall Street firms.
Scorsese's film is not all about the money though. It tells a vast and expansive story with a fascinating main character in Belfort. The businessman is also a heavy drug user, who, as he explains in a brief voiceover prologue, sniffed cocaine, smoked marijuana and drank alcohol every day before coming to work.
The entrepreneur's five year reign as head of Stratton Oakmont is accompanied by wild events - an orgy on a plane, a party at the firm's office with a band and strippers, and an excessive intake of Quaaludes which result in Belfort almost totaling his car one night.
Although the screenplay is full of funny one-liners (one of Belfort's associates thought Jiu Jitsu was a town in Israel), the movie is more disturbing than hilarious. In Belfort's memoir, the basis for screenwriter Terrence Winter’s script, the stockbroker recounted all these moments. The unsettling thing isn't that Scorsese's movie is full of sex, drugs and corruption, but that the sequences, according to Jordan Belfort really happened.
The movie is full of wonderful performances. Margot Robbie plays Belfort's second wife, Naomi, a woman who loses her affection for her husband when she sees the frivolous side of Jordan. Hill plays Donnie Azoff as a wild persona but a loyal friend to Belfort. Hill is rampant, as he plays Azoff as either high or drunk for most of the film.
DiCaprio gives a compelling performance. The actor is electrifying as he gives speeches at the company's main floor, speaking to his employees as a coach does to his team before a crucial game. DiCaprio portrays Belfort as an uncontrollable freak who was more addicted to money than any drug. The desperation, insanity and anger shown by DiCaprio in different scenes make his performance impressive, one that is also the best of any actor this year.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" not only features career-best performances but also has many themes embedded within its story. One of the prevalent themes I found was that of addiction. Scorsese was a cocaine addict in the early 80s and no film of his deals with drugs more deeply than this one. It's as if "Wolf" is the last third of the director's "Goodfellas."
There's a scene where Belfort is sweating and crying on a plane after he is tied down because of harassing an airhostess while he was high when he boarded the flight. Belfort misses his Quaaludes and all his drugs. Scorsese's film shows that someone as smart and clever as Belfort can be on the same level as a regular meth addict.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” will most likely provoke anger and frustration from the average viewer. Taken on face value, it is an uncomfortable experience. But, as a study on greed and addiction, it is appropriate and masterful. Martin Scorsese has crafted a dynamic film that is both insightful and affecting.