Dir: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, and Rob Reiner
Synopsis: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government
*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always. Also I want to apologize for being gone and not putting up reviews lately. I haven’t had time to do any but I have been watching movies. *
Based on Jordan Belfort’s bestselling memoir of the same name, The Wolf of Wall Street recounts how, as a young New York stockbroker, Belfort (DiCaprio) made a fortune from selling penny stocks aka made a ton selling crap to suckers. He later went on to start his own firm, Stratton Oakmont and made the leap to IPOs. Belfort’s success, cunning, and penchant for excess earned him the nickname “The Wolf of Wall Street,” despite the fact that his firm was based in Long Island. (Belfort’s Wall Street days were, as the film shows, quite short-lived.)
Belfort started Stratton Oakmont as a boiler room, training some of his drug-dealing neighborhood pals to become brokers of penny stocks. Soon, the firm is pulling down the big bucks and expanding into a true force to be reckoned with. And with remarkable success comes extraordinary excess in every imaginable way, from sex to drugs (especially drugs) to material things. We see Jordan slide from non-user to full-fledged raving addict. His drug of choice being Quaaludes, but he also abuses cocaine and morphine.
Ultimately, Jordan’s wild and greedy ways cost him the women he loves, his livelihood, and his freedom when the FBI (led by Kyle Chandler’s agent) finally bust him. The movie doesn’t necessarily condone all this bad behavior, and you feel a little bad rooting for a guy like this but he makes it looks pretty good. However, Belfort never quite seems sorry for what he did. He seems more upset that he had to give it all up
But The Wolf of Wall Street is anything but a white collar crime movie. The movie is also a great dark comedy. It’s profane, vulgar in every conceivable way, and goes to the point of utter absurdity, but it freaky works.
Next to Leo’s performance which I’ll get to in a second, one of the highlights is Jordan’s business partner and pal Donnie Azoff played by Jonah Hill. Donnie has big white teeth and a manic personality and while Hill is largely here as comic relief, there are a few vulnerable moments for his character near the end that reveal other layers to him.
Jon Bernthal has a small role as a drug dealer/middle man pal of Jordan’s, while Ethan Suplee, P.J. Byrne, and Kenneth Choi get lots of hilarious moments as some of Stratton Oakmont’s original team of brokers. Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin has a small, but important role as a Swiss banker, while Rob Reiner is hilarious as Jordan’s ill-tempered dad “Mad Max,” an accountant who tries to be the voice of reason for his son when he’s not berating him over the bills he’s running up. But its Matthew McConaughey who steals the show in his brief turn as Mark Hanna, the Wall Street broker who first hires Jordan and basically teaches him all he needs to know to be a scumbag and an untrustworthy stock broker.
One of the weakest elements is arguably the female characters. The women are mostly eye candy or hookers (yes I said hookers, this movie is pretty crazy). Margot Robbie is better than her role as Jordan’s second wife Naomi, aka the Duchess of Bay Ridge, probably deserves. You can argue that she may actually love Jordon or she’s nothing more than a gold digger. Jordan’s first wife, Teresa (Cristin Milioti), is sweet and probably could have been a real highlight but she disappears for a while when she comes back it’s really for nothing.
This film though belongs to DiCaprio. He’s has the right balance of scummy and appealing, and he’s also incredibly funny. He embraces the debauchery, greed, and recklessness of Belfort. Is it his best performance? Arguably yes. You can tell that DiCaprio is having fun playing and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch him play the role too. Even if you feel a bit dirty at times watching him do everything he does, especially when drugs take its toll.
All in all, The Wolf of Wall Street is a great movie, although probably a bit long, but everyone involved from Scorsese and DiCaprio to supporting actors like Hill, McConaughey, and the behind-the-scenes team pull out everything they got.
The Wolf of Wall Street
4 out of 5