The character of the powerful and money obsessed Jordan Belfort in the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” is portrayed by Oscar and BAFTA winner Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant). Belfort didn’t start out on top. He originally went to work on Wall Street as one of numerous cold callers, who had not yet passed his series 7 exam, which would give him a license to sell stock. Mark Hanna, played by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), takes a shine to Jordan. Hanna drinks during lunch and snorts cocaine, things that Belfort will come to emulate as his success grows. Their relationship doesn’t last long, because a stock market crash closes the doors on Hanna’s brokerage firm and forces Belfort back to square one. (As an aside: The film is based on the memoir of the same name written by Jordan Belfort, which was published by Batnam Books on September 25, 2007).
Working for a mom and pop brokerage firm on Long Island, Belfort learns the allure of easy money, by selling what amounts to, for the most part, worthless penny stocks. He becomes so successful at what he does, that he is able to leave Long Island and open up his own brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, on Wall Street.
His second in command at the firm is Donnie Azoff played by two time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (Moneyball). His other loyal employees and friends, are comprised of: Brad (John Bernthal); Nicky ‘Rugrat’ Koskoff (P.J. Byrne); Chester Ming (Kenneth Choi); and Toby Welch (Ethan Suplee). With the exception of Brad, the other men were with Belfort at the previous brokerage firm. They are all willing to learn from Belfort and replicate his behavior in the pursuit of making an inordinate amount of money. Their tactics and the celebration of extreme excess will be taught, and encouraged, to other brokers who come to work for the firm.
Everything about Belfort’s life gets an upgrade, from his home, and his car, and even his marriage. Previously married to the pretty Teresa (Cristin Milioti), Belfort takes a new wife, the gorgeous Naomi. She comes from Brooklyn and is known as the Duchess of Bay Ridge. In the role of Naomi is two time Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya).
The brokerage firm runs up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, by unfettered spending on everything from lavish parties to entertaining clients with expensive escorts. This is much to the chagrin of Belfort’s father Max, who oversees expenses. The role is played by two time Emmy winner Rob Reiner (All in the Family). As the real life Belfort has stated in interviews, plenty of work took place at the firm. The movie, however, tends to focus primarily on the extracurricular activities of its principal characters.
Belfort believes that with his money, power, and high priced attorney Manny Riskin played by two time Emmy winner Jon Favrrau (The Mandolorian), that he is above the law. In pursuit, however, of Belfort for various criminal violations is FBI Agent Patrick Denham, portrayed by Emmy winner Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights). How long will Belfort and the firm be able to outmaneuver the law, before the law catches up?
Trivia buffs take note: During the film, when the characters were supposedly snorting cocaine, in actuality they were snorting crushed B vitamins. Leonardo DiCaprio consulted Jordan Belfort on his real life escapades, in order to bring more authenticity to the role. DiCaprio had wanted to make the film, ever since reading Belfort’s book. Tommy Chong, of “Cheech & Chong” fame, actually encouraged Belfort to write the book. The two shared a California prison cell together. Belfort was serving a little under two years for stock fraud and Chong was incarcerated for selling drug paraphernalia over the internet. Belfort told Chong stories about many of the incidents that are shown in the film.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” was directed by Oscar winner Martin Scorsese (The Departed). The screenplay was written by three time Emmy winner Terence Winter (The Sopranos). Parts biography, crime, and drama, the film has a runtime of 180 minutes. The original cut of the film was approximately four hours. The film premiered in Paris, France on December 9, 2013. As of the writing of this post, the film marks the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio. The movie has grossed approximately 392 million dollars worldwide, making it, at the moment, the highest grossing film of Scorsese’s career.
Having been a Scorsese fan since I first started taking film seriously, in my opinion, in a career filled with spectacular cinema, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is no exception. There is no filler that I can pinpoint in the movie; every scene serves a purpose in advancing the narrative and showcasing the life of Belfort and his cronies. The cast are all excellent in their respective roles, which, among others, who I have not mentioned in this post, includes Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist). The editing, by long time Scorsese crew member, the exceptionally talented three time Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull), is flawless. The soundtrack also serves to bolster what is transpiring on screen. I recommend this to film fans the world over.