A year before The Wolf of Wall Street came out, Leonardo DiCaprio gave one of his best performances in Django Unchained, a three-hour movie that rarely took a wrong step for the first two-and-a-half hours, but went on for 30 minutes too long. The Wolf of Wall Street suffers from the same affliction.
Adding to the list of real-life people he’s portrayed of film, DiCaprio here plays Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stockbroker who got ridiculously rich in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s through boiler rooms and stock fraud. Belfort lived a life many millionaires envied – until Belfort’s arrogance and greed sets him up on a disastrous collision course with the FBI.
DiCaprio gives another excellent performance as Belfort, turning him into both modern-day Jay Gatsby and a Reagan-era Walter White. Everyone else in the cast, including Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, and Matthew McConaughey, is also top-notch. But the acting isn’t the movie’s problem.
The Wolf of Wall Street marks DiCaprio’s fifth team-up with director Martin Scorsese – after Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island – and its their longest movie yet. Clocking in a minute shy of three hours, The Wolf of Wall Street is long.
Its real problem, though, isn’t that it’s too long but that it feels long. The plot reaches a point where, as with Django Unchained, the movie could reach a natural end around the 150-minute mark, but it keeps going and eventually ends with more of a whimper than a bang.
For all the excesses of the movie, it ends up reflecting its antihero rather appropriately. As depicted by Scorsese and DiCaprio, Belfort was a man who was never satisfied with what he had and didn’t know when to cash in his chips and walk. The Wolf of Wall Street is great for most of its running time, but ultimately doesn’t know when to just call it quits. There’s a fine line between enough and too much.