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Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is Cinematic Adrenalin

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Rating: 5.0/5.0

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) lives completely, entirely in the moment. It’s not that there’s no tomorrow, there’s not even “later that same day” in his world. People who make their living on the minute-to-minute fluctuations of the stock market are inherently going to be inclined to live in the small spaces between those quick deviations but Belfort was even more so given the fact that his first day as a legit money maker was on the day the entire economy collapsed in 1987 known as “Black Monday.” There was no tomorrow that day and there would be no tomorrow from then on out as Belfort climbed back up the ladder of success, leaving hookers, drugs, and broke clients in his wake. Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter’s film about Belfort’s deviant rise to fame pumps with the adrenalized energy of its subject matter, alternating between its incredible screenwriter’s way with words and its filmmaker’s ability to tap into cultural issues like no one else. 2013 was a year of “Look at my shit” cinema like “Spring Breakers,” “Pain & Gain,” “The Bling Ring,” and more, but it took till Christmas Day to get the gaudiest, biggest cinematic gift in this fascinating subgenre.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” opens with a relatively naïve and wide-eyed Jordan learning the ropes from a foul-mouthed, power broker played with steel-eyed intensity in a cameo by Matthew McConaughey. What does Jordan learn? Cocaine is to Wall Street as caffeine is to most of the working world. You get your coffee break, stock brokers take a bump. And he learns that it’s not what the client needs that matters but what the broker needs. The stock broker in this world is more of a con man, talking clients into stocks they know won’t do them any good, selling them more than they should, and reaping the commissions.

The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Belfort probably would have been a successful broker no matter what but it actually helped him when the market collapsed because he was forced to go out on his own. After a stint at a dinky brokerage run out of a garage where he learns the high commission rate on penny stocks, Belfort opens his own company and begins his meteoric ascendancy to the kind of money that most of us only imagine. When he tells Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) at a diner that he made $72k last month, Donnie quits his job to work for Jordan. Of course, the two get high to celebrate. Jordan dumps his wife for the gorgeous Naomi (Margot Robbie), buys yachts, throws parties, screws hookers, does more drugs than most rock stars, and intimidates anyone who gets in his way, even the federal government officials who have started to notice that his money comes from illegal means.

Anyone who knows even the best of Scorsese’s filmography shouldn’t be surprised that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a technical masterpiece. It hums along in ways that never make its 179-minute running time feel tedious thanks to amazing work by Scorsese’s regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker and some of the most entertaining dialogue of the year courtesy of “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” writer Terence Winter. Much as he did with Tony Soprano and Nucky Thompson, Winter doesn’t ask us to “like” or “sympathize” with Jordan Belfort. Winter merely uses his incredible skill with character depth and scene structure to keep us entertained.

The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

It helps to have an actor as ridiculously talented as Leonardo DiCaprio center stage. In nearly every frame of the three-hour movie, Leo is riveting, personifying a man who is instinctual more than intellectual. He is an animal in the way he always satisfies his every need and want, always living completely in the moment – buy, sell, snort, buy, sell, fuck, buy, sell, and do it all over again. DiCaprio never takes Belfort too far beyond believable in that this character could have easily become caricature but we always buy Jordan’s journey. The movie would fall apart if we didn’t. Smaller roles are excellently filled out, especially work by Hill, Robbie, Jon Bernthal, and Kyle Chandler, but it’s Leo’s film and he delivers the best performance of the year.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” has already created a bit of divisive response as to its purpose, as if a movie like this would be better with a moral message at the end. “Boys and girls, don’t live just for the moment.” What nonsense. Haven’t we all seen enough of those movies about the perils of excess? The argument that Scorsese’s film is hollow under its flashy, party-going surface misses the point – Jordan Belfort’s life was hollow too. We’ve seen so many films about the lows of “when the party ends” but few that captured the insanity of the actual highs like “The Wolf of Wall Street.” It’s a blast in every way and one of the best films of 2013.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Cristin Milioti, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner, Shea Wigham, Kyle Chandler, and Matthew McConaughey. It was written by Terence Winter and directed by Martin Scorsese. It opens on Christmas Day and is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Gina Cimino's picture

My review on The Wolf of Wall Street

I never got the chance to see this movie in a Movie Therater, and just by chance, I watched it last night, Monday, 1/9/2017. This movie was not only Great because it was a “True Story”, however it was great for so many other reasons, as well! The story was told and acted out in a very dramatic yet very believable way! The comedy used in the movie was genius, as it portrayed the truth about the life of a Conartist broker who was brilliant and really didn’t have to work illegally, but chose to anyway, a drug addict who had experiences that I actually experienced myself , a terrible husband who cheated on his Beautiful wife, a sex addict, who had to be strapped to his seat on a plane, and a Father who didn’t even realize that he was one! This movie was brilliantly written, brilliantly directed, and last but not least, was brilliantly acted out, not just by Leonardo, but by his supporting actors, as well! I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and at one point, I laughed so hard, I peed myself! A Movie based on Fact, filled with Drama, Comedy, Sex, Drugs, and entertainment, at its best! All that in one believable movie, that I didn’t want to end!
STARS

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