Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

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WOWSForget “The Great Gatsby.” “The Wolf of Wall Street” is where the real show is.

A fifth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese (“The Departed,” “Shutter Island,” “Hugo”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Catch Me If You Can,” “Inception,” “J. Edgar“), “The Wolf of Wall Street” is based on a true story of the rise and fall of a hedonistic stockbroker in 1980s and 1990s, Jordan Belfort (adapted from the memoir of the same title).

Eager and sincere at age 22, Belfort does a short stint at a major Wall Street firm. Matthew McConaughey (“The Lincoln Lawyer”), in a scene-stealing alpha-male mode, appears briefly as his mentor showing the sinful ropes of the inner workings of Wall Street. If you like your greenbacks, keep your clients on a rich-on-paper ferris wheel. And yes, keep your blood pumping with drugs and sex. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Blatantly brash.

The gig doesn’t last long. Belfort is laid off when the Black Monday market crash happens and the firm shuts its door. But it isn’t long until he stumbles upon a get-rich-quick scheme of unregulated penny stocks, courtesy of a mom-and-pop shop, Investors Center. It doesn’t matter what companies he pitches; he’s selling pie-in-the-sky believably and is rewarded with 50% commission, as opposed to 1% during his blue chip days. Before long cash starts rolling in and it shows. One of the neighbors, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), notices the nouveau-riche and jumps to work for him.

Belfort pulls together a bunch of hometown boys and operates his own company out of a garage. The misfits can sell. Belfort, a master salesman, teaches them how to appeal to the dreamer’s side of people, bait them with the promise of easy money, fake sincerity, gain their trust and score. The firm of Stratton Oakmont is born. The scene is comically shot and DiCaprio works it like no other.

The company expands exponentially, Forbes starts calling, hordes of people are beating down the door hungry to work for Belfort. Everyone worships him, and Belfort is enjoying the illicit spoils of his success: mansion, fancy car, yacht with a helicopter, just to name a few. He divorces his first wife (Christin Milioti) and gets himself a trophy wife, Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie), who keeps up with his lurid lifestyle.

Belfort and team are living high, large and loose, even as the SEC and FBI come sniffing, and with a concerned father (Rob Reiner) in the background. Life is a never-ending party and debauchery. He becomes drunk with greed, swimming with cash, drowning in drugs and addicted to prostitutes.

DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler (“Super 8,” “Argo,” “ZeroDark Thirty”), lead FBI agent on the case, handle the initial encounter on the yacht with humorous aplomb, where Belfort tries to bribe the hard-working, common-folk agent. As the investigation heats up, money is smuggled out of the country and stashed in an offshore account. Eventually, sordid deeds are catching up with Belfort. Before the indictment for fraud and money laundering, there’s a standout scene, physical comedy no less, involving DiCaprio and Hill. It’s a sad, scary situation, yet absolutely uproarious.

None of the characters are likeable. Their actions are beyond reckless and abhorrent. Their language is profanity-laced at every turn. But execution, script, and acting are sensationally top-shelf. There’s not a dull moment in the three-hour run. Scorsese directs it with revelry. Terence Winter (screenwriter) writes it unbridledly. DiCaprio lives it up like the king of the world and swaggers into a staggering performance. Deplorable, hysterical, phenomenal.

The abyss of excess takes entertaining to the extreme. “The Wolf of Wall Street” spirals with sins and sizzles with exuberance.

Copyright (c) 2014. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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