Film Review: Leonardo DiCaprio Stars in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’

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wolf-of-wall-street-poster2-610x903Paramount Pictures’ “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Terence Winter and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, and Rob Reiner. It hits theaters this Wednesday, Dec. 25. 

A couple of years ago, Martin Scorsese went on to direct one of the most critically acclaimed films of his career in “Hugo.” It seemed like a weird career move for Scorsese…known for creating intense thrillers and gangster films, “Hugo” was children’s movie that focuses on the innocence of a child struggling to survive in a world without his father. After watching “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it’s safe to say those days of “Hugo” are long gone. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a raunchy, drug infused look into the life of Jordan Belfort and how he continued to rise and break the rules on Wall Street. Scorsese has directed plenty of spectacular films and while “The Wolf of Wall Street” may not hit the ranks of “Goodfellas,” it’s certainly not that far off.

Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a naive, innocent kid who arrives on the Wall Street scene in 1987 starting off as a “connector” for the trading firm of L.F. Rothschild. A connector is probably the least glamorized job in this business…it’s pretty much just being a phone dialer for an actual stock broker. Taking Jordan under his wing is senior broker Mark Hanna (played wonderfully by McConaughey). Hanna takes the kid out to lunch and teaches him the tricks to the trade — masturbation and cocaine. It seems simple enough. What’s surprising during these scenes isn’t so much the acting or just the eccentric charisma of Hanna, but how DiCaprio can still do a damn good job of playing a character almost half his age. Jordan finally makes it as a stockbroker for the firm but there’s one problem…Black Monday. The stock markets around the world crashed and this left Jordan out on his own as the firm of L.F. Rothschild shut down. In a time where nobody is looking for stockbrokers, Jordan is left struggling for money trying to figure things out with his wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti). Looking through the help-wanted ads, he finds one place looking — a small, storefront brokerage in a Long Island strip mall.

He heads over to the place and, in a snazzy suit and tie, clearly sticks out like a sore thumb as the rest of the people are dressed casually. He meets with Dwayne (Spike Jonze), who gives him the run down of the place: they sell penny-stocks for a 50% commission. Which means if Jordan can convince someone to spend $10,000 on a call, he’d make $5,000 off of the deal. Noticing his newly lavish lifestyle is Donnie Azoff (Hill), who lives in the same apartment complex as Belfort. Azoff is a bit off…a bit, I guess you can say of a doofus in many ways. When Azoff finds out Belfort made $72,000 in a month, he quits his job and follows Belfort to become a stockbroker himself. The two decide to go out on their own and create a new trading firm…Stratton Oakmont. Previously, they were selling those garbage penny stocks to people with little money. Eyeing bigger fish now, they’re looking to sell these penny stocks to the one percent…the men with money. It’s with Stratton Oakmont where everything begins to change…the drugs are used everyday, the alcohol is nonstop, and the money is flying everywhere. Most days are Stratton Oakmont are filled with sex, with whores, and just complete insanity. But of course, the party has to stop sometime.

At 179 minutes, The Wolf of Wall Street is the longest Scorsese film to date and yet it really doesn’t feel that long. While the film could have been tighter in some sequences, it’s clear that Scorsese and his number one editor Thelma Schoonmaker had a vision for the way this world would look and be presented. For a film like this to work, you need to cast these characters perfectly and Scorsese did as good of a job as he’s ever done. It begins with Leo, who completely goes off the chain this time around. He may have played bad in “Django Unchained,” but this is a different kind of bad that he goes for. Jordan Belfort starts off as an innocent, good kid who loves his wife. But once he has money…well he turns his back on just about everything and dives right on in to the lifestyle that goes with the money. Seeing Leo go on drug fueled tirades and sex-filled nights is alarming at first, but given that the film is full of these moments all you can do is sit back and just laugh at the ridiculousness in front of us.

Alongside Leo is one of the best supporting casts this year. Beginning with Hill, he plays someone who is really despicable in a completely different way from Jordan. Donnie Azoff may have been Jordan Belfort’s right hand man, but Azoff is really just someone you want to punch. With smaller roles, both McConaughey and Jean Dujardin (as a Swiss banker) are brilliant. McConaughey has been on a role this year and he’s continuing his hot streak of films, while Dujardin has never played pompous so handsomely before. Rounding out the supporting cast, Margot Robbie as Naomi is stunning and just wonderful, Kyle Chandler seems to be the new go to guy when you need a government official since he plays it so well, Rob Reiner as Jordan’s father is just loud mouthed and brilliant, and Jon Bernthal as Brad Bodnick…well he’s just damn fun to watch.

Going into “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it was expected that the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio would be off the charts. I’m not certain if anyone expected anything quite like this though. With a hard-R rating, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is graphic in almost every sense of the word and it’s just wonderful to see Scorsese come back with a bang after directing a family film. With “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Scorsese has directed a film so over the top and so outlandish that if you turned away for one moment you could miss something hilarious. The “Wolf of Wall Street” is easily one of the top films of 2013 and is definitely one of the top films that Martin Scorsese has ever directed.

-Joshua Kaye

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