Review The Wolf Of Wall Street leonardo dicaprio
Martin Scorsese’s ” The Wolf of Wall Street ” is abashed and shameless,
exciting and exhausting, disgusting and illuminating; it’s one of the most
entertaining films ever made about loathsome men.
Its star Leonardo DiCaprio has compared it to the story of the Roman emperor
Caligula, and he’s not far off the mark.
Adapted by Terence Winter from the memoir by stockbroker Jordan Belfort,
who oozed his way into a fortune in the 1980s and ’90s,
this is an excessive film about excess, and a movie about appetites whose own
appetite for compulsive pleasures seems bottomless. It runs three hours, and
was reportedly cut down from four by Scorsese’s regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
It’s a testament to Scorsese and Winter and their collaborators that one could
imagine watching these cackling swine for five hours, or ten, while still finding
them fascinating, and our own fascination with them disturbing. This is a reptilian
brain movie. Every frame has scales.
The middle-class, Queens-raised Belfort tried and failed to establish himself on Wall
Street in a more traditional way—we see his tutelage in the late ’80s at a blue chip firm,
under the wing of a grinning sleazeball played by Matthew McConaughey—but got laid
off in the market crash of 1987. He reinvented himself on Long Island by taking over a penny
stock boiler room and giving it an old money name, Stratton Oakmont, to gain the confidence
of middle- and working-class investors.
Per Wikipedia, at its peak, “the firm employed over 1000 stock brokers and was involved
in stock issues totaling more than $1 billion, including an equity raising for footwear company
Steve Madden Ltd.” Belfort and his company specialized in “pump and dump” operations:
artificially blowing up the value of a nearly worthless stock, then selling it at a big profit,
after which point the value drops and the investors lose their money.
Belfort was indicted in 1998 for money laundering and securities fraud, spent nearly two years
in federal prison and was ordered to pay back $110 million to investors he’d deceived.
Taking its cues from gangster pictures, “Wolf” shows how Belfort rose from humble origins,
becoming rich and notorious (the title comes from an unflattering magazine profile that caught
the attention of federal prosecutors). This Robin Hood-in-reverse builds himself a team of merry
men drawn from various sundry corners of his life. All have both given names and Damon
Runyon-esque nicknames: Robbie Feinberg, aka “Pinhead” (Brian Sacca), Alden Kupferberg,
aka “Sea Otter” (Henry Zebrowski), the dreadfully-toupeed “Rugrat” Nicky Koskoff (P.J. Byrne),
“The Depraved Chinaman”
Chester Ming (Kenneth Choi), and Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), a DeNiro-esque neighborhood hothead who’s known as the Quaalude King of Bayside. His office enforcer is his volcanic dad (Rob Reiner), who screams about expenditures and workplace sleaze, but often seems to live vicariously through the trading floor’s young wolves.
Belfort’s right hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) is perhaps even more conscienceless than Belfort: a hefty wiseass with gleaming choppers who quits his job at a diner after one conversation with the hero, joins his scheme, helps him launder money, and introduces him to crack—as if Belfort didn’t have enough intoxicants in his system, on top of the adrenaline he generates by making deals and bedding every halfway attractive woman who crosses his path. As McConaughey’s character tells Belfort early on,
this subset of investing is so scummy that drugs are mandatory: “How the f— else would you do this job?” At one point a broker declares that they’re doing all that coke and all those Quaaludes and guzzling all that booze “in order to stimulate our freethinking ideas.”
Imagine the last thirty minutes of “GoodFellas” stretched out to three hours.
That’s the pace of this movie, and the feel of it. It’s one damned thing after another: stock fraud and money laundering; trips to and from Switzerland to deposit cash in banks (and give the increasingly wasted Belfort a chance to flirt with his wife’s British aunt, played by “Absolutely Fabulous” costar Joanna Lumley);
rock-and-pop driven montages with ostentatious film speed shifts (including a slow-motion Quaalude binge); and some daringly protracted and seemingly half-improvised dialogue scenes that feel like tiny one-act plays. The best of these is McConaughey’s only long scene as Belfort’s mentor Mark Hanna,
who at one point thumps a drum pattern on his chest while rumble-singing a la Bobby McFerrin; this eventually becomes the anthem of Belfort’s firm, and it’s weirdly right, as it suggests a tribal war song for barbarians on permanent rampage.