The Wolf of Wall Street ★★★★★

"See those little black boxes? They're called telephones. I'ma let you on a little secret about these telephones: they're not gonna dial themselves, OK? Without you, they're just worthless hunks of plastic. Like a loaded M-16 without a trained Marine to pull the trigger. And in the case of the telephone, it's up to each and every one of you, my highly-trained Strattonites, my killers, my killers who will not take 'No' for an answer, my fuckin' warriors, who will not hang up the phone until their client either buys or FUCKIN' DIIIIIEEEESSS!!! - Jordan Belfort

Martin Scorsese might be the greatest cinematic salesman ever to work in the business. No matter what the subject matter, from the controversial alternative version of the crucifixion of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ to the attempts at humanising gangsters in Goodfellas and Casino, he can sell us any story and execute it in such style that you can't help but be taken on a ride in some way or another. He can sell us an exhilarating rush in an epic package, sustaining said exhilaration for the entire running time, while most other films of such scope and canvas would fizzle out before the final credits roll. And even at 71 years old, when most other directors would consider vying for retirement, Marty churns out what might just be his biggest, boldest, funniest and craziest film to date.

The story of Jordan Belfort is extremely similar to that of Goodfellas: rise, fall and betrayal, with all the scattered chronology we expect from Scorsese. DiCaprio's Belfort breaks the fourth wall almost as much as he breaks financial laws, and this is Scorsese effectively evoking his iconic style and exploiting it to an insane level. There might not be those traditional whip-pans that he likes to employ every so often, but his camera glides over all instead. Frequent montages are introduced by an aerial camera, zooming in like a hawk over the testosterone-drenched offices and realistic CGI estates. The scale of this technique often matches the astonishing excess, and gives this tale a very modern and confident twist.

As for the excess...well, it simply would not be nearly as good if Wolf employed it in any other fashion. Simply insane, humourously bad taste and completely off-the-wall, this is Marty growing old disgracefully. From roller-skating chimps to 'scalping' to the discussion of dwarves as animals, the stuff that DiCaprio and his pals at Stratton Oakmont could be passed off as shock value...or it could be passed off as a helluva lot of fun. Leave your morals at the door: this is Scorsese evoking some of his work with DeNiro as both protagonist and antagonist, presenting us with a normally dislikable character and forcing us to connect and like him.

And what a character! On paper, Jordan Belfort's transformation from naive stock broker to full-scale, self-imposed 'master of the universe' is an astonishing metamorphosis, and DiCaprio embodies this role with such commitment and vigour that you actually forget you're watching DiCaprio. If it was ever his time to shine, this is it. Brave, brazen and unapologetic, his Belfort is an unforgettable creation of versatile physicality, torrents of swearing and undeniable charisma, and completely Oscar-worthy. There will be blood if DiCaprio doesn't nab it this time.

Jonah Hill continues his development into serious actor while still remembering his comedy roots, giving a hilarious performance as Belfort's scumbag bro, Donnie Azoff, while the rest of Belfort's cronies, including Jon Bernthal in a porn star 'stache and a whole cast of soon-to-be stars, also provide scene-stealing turns. Margot Robbie is brilliant as Belfort's beautiful trophy-wife, bravely committing to acts that few newbie actresses would go through at such an early stage in their career. Risky performances is what this film deals in, and every actor clearly wants to be there and grasp each and every opportunity that Terence Winter's immensely-quotable screenplay gives them. Unexpected turns come in the form of Matthew McConaughey in the best cameo of the year, and Rob Reiner in a surprisingly late-career star-making role as 'Mad Max', his shouty speeches punctuating the film like hysterical bullets.

Scorsese knows where to draw the line between improvisation and adherence to the confident screenplay, letting everything breathe. Watch the 'Steeeeve Mad-en' sequence: a masterclass in humourous narration, stylistic tics and fun improv working together in harmony. The situational comedy outlines the amusement, and the actors judge it perfectly. Marty's fast-and-loose style has never been more apt and appropriate.

Blistering, exhausting and utterly deserving of its 180-minute running time, The Wolf of Wall Street is a fine return to form after Scorsese's still-excellent forays in mystery thriller and family adventure. Far from resting on his laurels, he and DiCaprio have created a new icon: beyond the new Wall Street and actually worthy of being placed alongside Goodfellas.

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