You’ll need a forgiving nature and lots of stamina to survive Martin Scorsese’s fifth feature with Leonardo DiCaprio as his leading man.
A no-holds-barred hedonistic ride into the 1990s’ financial world that lasts just five seconds short of three hours, its Roman orgy-style excesses become, collectively, excessive. You really can have too much of a good thing.
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a real-life stockbroker whose initially faltering career rises and then explodes like a multi-bomb firework.
By combining unrivalled expertise with the brio of a man half of his 71 years, Scorsese almost seems to have Tarantinofied himself.
Yet the unrelenting unpleasantness of Belfort’s character could be yet another reason why DiCaprio again leaves the Oscars empty handed.
As the shock factor increases with nobody caring about any victims, DiCaprio breaks the film’s spell by unselfconciously talking directly to the camera: ‘Is all of this legal?’ he asks. ‘Absolutely not. But we were making more money than we knew what to do with’.
Joanna Lumley plays British Aunt Emma who turns up at Belfont’s wedding extravaganza to say: ‘I lived through the ‘60s my dear. Enjoy the day’.
But the best scene is the simplest – when the FBI arrive to quiz Belfont man-to-man, on board his yacht.
The script by Terence Winter (The Sopranos / Boardwalk Empire) is as polished as it is foul-mouthed to a record-breaking degree.
Sharp turns of phrase like ‘All nuns are lesbians’ are attention-grabbing given Scorsese’s former priesthood ambitions.
And ‘golden ticket’ references, relentless drugs use and some hanky panky in a see-through lift radically reinterpret Roald Dahl’s book ‘Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator’.
Even Belfort’s father Max (Rob Reiner) engages his son with a chat about bodily hair and people being ‘bald from the eyebrows down’.
As DiCaprio moves on he bellows to staff: “There is no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a rich man and I’ve been a poor man and I choose rich every ******* time.
“Pick up the phone and start dialling. I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich.”
Scorsese, DiCaprio and Winter are to be congratulated for making a rumbustious rollercoaster ride this resolutely amoral.
And yet, because it’s so over the top, and from a different century, it lacks the contemporary relevance of Jeremy Irons’ Oscar-nominated Margin Call (2012), a brilliant but limited-release ‘credit crunch’ drama which played for just seven days two years ago this week.