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Review: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

The short review: Certainly the least family-friendly of this season’s holiday offerings, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street pulls no punches as it takes us on a boozy, drugged out, adrenaline-fueled trip into the bowels of Wall Street excess.

The long review: It is uncanny that at age 71, Martin Scorsese remains as sharp and savvy a filmmaker as ever, presenting a modern fable of excess, evil, and extreme behaviors with more real world relevance than half the offerings at the box office this year. Much like the world he’s created, his characters are colorful. What they say and do may be about as blue as one can get this side of an NC-17 rating, but few can render overindulgence with as deft a hand as Scorsese, and believe me when I say he isn’t painting a rosy picture of their increasingly irresponsible antics. Viewers may recognize bits and pieces of past classics like Casino and Goodfellas in The Wolf of Wall Street‘s DNA, but make no mistake, it is very much its own beast.

Whether they agreed to it at one of their secret Illuminati meetings or not, Hollywood in 2013 seemed to be about putting the American Dream under a microscope and then punching the petri dish into thousands of tiny, broken shards. From The Bling Ring to Spring Breakers to The Wolf of Wall Street and beyond, filmmakers seem to be latching on to this sense that America is slipping from its seat of power and what we put up on a pedestal might, in fact, be a false idol. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese aims to indict the sort of scummy, predatory capitalist culture that plunged our country into economic downturn while making us care about this lovable group of assholes he’s assembled, even when what they’re doing is utterly reprehensible. There’s plenty of winks and nods to the camera and even more fourth-wall-breaking, but somehow it all works. It’s no small feat.

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Based on the memoirs of real life white collar criminal Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who defrauded investors of more than $110 million through stock manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room, the film follows Belfort’s rise from down-on-his-luck stock broker to multi-million dollar money mogul as he learns high-pressure selling tactics and applies them to the less-than-legal world of shorting penny stocks, which are essentially junk that he forces down the throats of unsuspecting clients. With his eyes on the prize, Belfort founds his very own firm, Stratton Oakmont, with his partner-in-crime Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and a gang of slack-jawed fuck-ups from Long Island that Belfort manages to mold into master salesmen. What follows is a drug-addled, booze-soaked descent into the abyss, like Dante’s Inferno but douchier, that takes us through the rise and fall of an exploitative empire.

Although the film is full of wild, increasingly over-the-top characters (shout out to Jon Bernthal’s tremendously entertaining Brad), the anchor of this mega-yacht is Leonardo Dicaprio’s Jordan Belfort. As Belfort, DiCaprio is a manic, unhinged lightning rod. Thanks to a brief but memorable lesson imparted to him by veteran stockbroker Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), Belfort is able to metamorphose from doe-eyed greenhorn to penny stock huckster to an outsized leader of men (manchildren, really) with a cult of personality and a drug problem to match. Who knew that DiCaprio was such an incredible physical comedian? Did you? Did you? Regardless, DiCaprio brings a relentless, lanky charisma to the role. Many actors can play a self-absorbed, hubristic, overindulgent asshole, but DiCaprio’s portrayal of Belfort remains dynamic, compelling, and complex for the duration of the film’s mammoth 3 hour run time.

Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, P.J. Byrne… I could go on all day, because the cast is pitch perfect. Don’t let the film’s daunting length dissuade you. This is the tale of excess and emptiness that The Great Gatsby should have been. This is a role that DiCaprio was born to play, and Scorsese directs the hell out of this film. The stock market may be volatile and unpredictable, but when it comes to seeing The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s a surefire bet.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is in theaters everywhere. What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments below.

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9 comments

  • […] Review: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET « Nerdist http://www.nerdist.com/Whether they agreed to it at one of their secret Illuminati meetings or not, Hollywood in 2013 seemed to be about putting the American Dream under a microscope and then punching the petri dish into thousands of tiny, broken shards. … who defrauded investors of more than $110 million through stock manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room, the film follows Belfort's rise from down-on-his-luck stock broker to multi-million dollar money mogul as he learns … […]

  • I thought it was great! Leonardo DiCaprio really carries the movie with another stellar performance. It’s ridiculously long at 3 hours, but it doesn’t leave you bored at any point.

  • I thought the movie absolutely STUNK. In fact, My husband and I walked out of it. It was the most degrading, stupid movie I have ever seen. To think a movie is a good movie when every other word is bad and the actions of everyone is absurd, then people have really lost something in this world. If I were one of those actors…I would be embarrassed to be seen or even been associated with such a movie.

  • Sure this movie will please some and offend others. One hour into this F-BOMB saga of hucksters selling JUNK penny stocks I walked out. I heard BETTER language in a crap game and I’m not easily offended. No plot and 3 hours of drugs, cussing, and sex should be rated a PORN movie. Sure that DeCaprio played his role well but the story line SUCKED

  • To say The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t the best Scorsese film would be accurate, it doesn’t even crack the man’s top five films. But, with that being said, Scorsese is THAT good that saying this isn’t his best film just means it is the best of the year and not of the decade. This film is insightful, poignant, and downright hysterical from start to finish. It leans more towards Scorsese’s comedy genre, much in the vein of After Hours with a little smidgen of Goodfellas and Casino added to intensify the film high you get when you watch this. The Wolf of Wall Street is a roaring film with energy to spare and performance to marvel at. Martin Scorsese directs yet another unforgettable performance from DiCaprio and gives Jonah Hill a high point in his career. Between all the Quaalude, cocaine, and hookers, there is a Greek tragedy playing out before our eyes. Belfort goes from being the top broker/criminal at his firm to being a drug fueled, yuppie with high minded ambitions that always seem to have a funny and hysterical way of falling through. The film is a chronicle of his rise and fall and clocking in at 3 hours, you barely feel it. The film is so energetic in telling this story that it is hard to look the other way even when we are exposed to characters smoking crack, popping Quaalude like Skittles and snorting more cocaine than Tony Montana along with banging every hooker north of Manhattan. This film is pure entertainment and worth seeing in the theater. Go and see this film, you won’t be disappointed.

  • A movie that is glorifying, Elite fraud, corruption, inside trading, prostitution is not worth watching specially after the continuous bail out with Bush and Obama- A case of Sodoma and Gomorra-
    And this people evade their criminal actions with drugs and sexual promiscuity. When the next World revolution will start?