Think of The Wolf of Wall Street as The Great Gatsby meeting The Goodfellas of the stock market. Martin Scorsese's drama-comedy-biopic is based on Jordan Belfort's real-life memoir of the same name. The screenplay was written by Terence Winter, and the production enjoy a cast made of a respectable roster of star power, including Leonardo DiCaprio at the lead (Belfort,) his sidekick Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey as Belfort's earlier mentor, and many others.
Scorsese is a master filmmaker. It goes without saying that he knows how to entertain and engage his audience. His production value is superb and his direction is as smooth as one can expect of a seasoned director. The Wolf of Wall Street has several great moments but, all in all, when everything is said and done, I had to ask myself whether there was really a need to make this film. At close to three hours the film is long and feels even longer. We are introduced to a young Belfot who is a naïve yet highly motivated person of low income, intended on striking it rich in Wall Street. Without divulging the plot, Belfort gets what he wished for, but at a price of various addictions, a cost he seems only too eager to pay. Belfort cheats people out of their money without giving it a second thought. He is not a guy I would have liked to have as a friend, even if he seems to be handling his buddies generously. A crock remains a crock as the story later proves. Having Belfort as the film’s protagonist, even if the lead is depicted by a charismatic DiCaprio, makes the story dislikable and somewhat dull. That being said, maybe for the Kardashians audience this film is a treat. Not being part of that crowd, this film is one I could have done without.
The Wolf of Wall Street does make good in one specific area: it portrays, albeit with much extravaganza, the corrupted atmosphere of Wall Street back in the 90's; a time when brokerage firms partied hard at the expense of defrauded investors. Belfort, despite his charm, was a swindler deserving no mercy. This is a guy that didn't allow cheating people out of about $200mm, disturb his sleep at night.
I would also like to note that the story could have been made much more interesting if Winter and Scorsese would have chosen to explore an element that is implied only briefly during the film. FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler,) the agent assigned to investigate Belfor, is a person who might have been a Belfor under different circumstances, yet he chose a low-pay job with the FBI rather than making it big with the crème-dela-crème of Wall Street. Was it his choice or was it a difference in his and Belfort's inherit characters? Maybe Agent Denham wasn’t cut to be a stock broker, thus his FBI career choice became his vengeance? Exploring these aspects of the story could have added a deeper layer unto an otherwise shallow Wolf.