“The name of the game,” says cocaine-addicted stock broker Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) to neophyte Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), “is moving money from your client’s pocket into your pocket. He thinks he’s getting rich, but it’s just on paper, while you’re taking home real money – commissions.” Jordan lives by Hanna’s lesson, swindling millions from small investors and penny stocks, amassing a fortune and spending it on drugs, sex and partying in the five years covered in Martin Scorsese’s non-stop, lurid and brilliant film.
Does the partying at Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont brokerage ever stop? Can FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) bring Belfort down? Will Belfort ever develop a shred of self-awareness? See “Wolf of Wall Street” for answers.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives an Academy Award-worthy performance as charismatic, manic, amoral Jordan Belfort, who narrates his criminal story with hardly a trace of remorse, except when his father, Max (Rob Reiner), calls Jordan’s business model “obscene.” Jordan confesses (half-heartedly): “It was obscene – in the normal world – but who wants to live there?” For his small-time investor victims, Jordan has contempt: “Their money was better in my pocket. I knew how to spend it better.” Jonah Hill is sometime comic-relief as Donnie Azoff, Jordan’s vice president, a similarly amoral, debauched partner in crime.
Others in the large cast include Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia, Jordan’s beautiful, tough-minded second wife, Rob Reiner as Jordan’s enabling father, and Jean Dujardin as devious Swiss banker Jean Jacques Saurel. Kyle Chandler is former-broker, FBI agent Patrick Denham. Joanna Lumley plays Aunt Emma who, with others, brings millions in cash to Switzerland in stuffed carry-on luggage. Matthew McConaughey is Jordan’s mentor Mark Hanna.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” is, like its title character, ferocious and relentless, three hours of R-rated language, crime, sex, and drugs. It’s also brilliant moviemaking, an illustration of Roger Ebert’s lesson that great movies can be made about contemptible characters. Scorsese directed from Terrence White’s screenplay and Jordan Belfort’s book, bringing us a depiction of Wall-Street boiler-room greed and compelling performances of characters with whom we should not identify. It’s a cautionary tale told by an unrepentant miscreant whose life lessons include: “Deal with your problems by becoming rich” and “Money does not just buy you a better life, it makes you a better person.” You can discuss these lessons on your way home.
“Wolf of Wall Street” is deservedly rated R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, drugs, violence, and pervasive language. 180 minutes. Adult fare only.
“The Wolf of Wall Street,”
Scorsese and Leo –
Language, crime, sex, drugs –
All of it, con brio.