The Wolf of Wall Street

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After losing his job at a Wall Street firm, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a job at a boiler room trading company that specializes in penny stocks. Thanks to his aggressive pitching style and the high commissions, he makes a small fortune. He befriends a man named Donnie Azoff, and the two decide to go into business together. They recruit Belfort’s accountant parents as well as several of Jordan’s friends, whom Jordan trains in the art of the hard sell. The basic method of the firm is a pump and dump scam. To cloak this, Belfort gives the firm the respectable name of “Stratton Oakmont”. After an exposé in Forbes, hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company.

Jordan becomes immensely successful and slides into a decadent lifestyle of prostitutes and drugs. Jordan has an affair with a woman named Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) at one of his parties. He divorces his wife and marries Naomi, and soon they have a daughter, Skylar. Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI begin investigating Stratton Oakmont.

Jordan instantly makes $22 million on his securing the IPO of Steve Madden, Ltd. To hide his money, Jordan opens a Swiss bank account with the corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) in the name of Naomi’s aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), who is a British citizen and outside the reach of American authorities. He uses friends with European passports to smuggle cash to Switzerland.

Donnie gets into a public fight with Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), one of their money couriers, and Brad is arrested. Jordan also learns from his private investigator that the FBI is wiretapping his phones. Fearing for his son, Jordan’s father pressures him to leave Stratton Oakmont and lay low. Jordan, however, cannot bear to quit.

Jordan, Donnie and their wives are on a yacht trip to Italy when they learn that Emma has died of a heart attack. Over the objections of his grieving wife and his yacht captain, Jordan decides to sail to Monaco so they can drive to Switzerland without getting their passports stamped at the border and settle the bank account, but a violent storm capsizes their yacht. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed by a seagull flying into the engine. Jordan considers this a sign from God and decides to sober up.

Two years later, the FBI arrests Jordan during the filming of an infomercial. Saurel, arrested in Florida over an unrelated charge, has told the FBI everything. Since the evidence against him is overwhelming, Jordan agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Disgusted with Jordan’s lifestyle, Naomi tells Jordan she will divorce him and wants full custody of their children. Jordan throws a violent tantrum, gets high, and ends up crashing his car in his driveway during an attempt to abscond with their daughter.

The next morning, Jordan wears a wire to work. Jordan silently slips Donnie a note warning him about the wire. The note finds its way to the FBI, and Jordan is arrested for breaching his cooperation deal. The FBI raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont.

Despite this one breach, Jordan receives a reduced sentence for his testimony and is sentenced to 36 months in a minimum security prison in Nevada. After his release, Jordan makes a living hosting seminars on sales technique.

REVIEW:

Given the events of today, which I will keep to myself, if you don’t mind, I wasn’t really in the mood to watch a film, to be honest with you, let alone sit here and write a review. However, an outing with the little woman and a big fat burger have lifted my spirits and I am now able to bring you The Wolf of Wall Street.

What is this about?

Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career ended in federal prison.

What did I like?

Go for it. There are certain subjects that films tend to avoid or just skim over. Money laundering isn’t necessarily one of them, as can be proven by watching just about any drug trafficking flick, but when you throw in the face that this actually happened and director Martin Scorsese is taking the chance to bring this to light, then you know it has to have been something big. I don’t know much about the goings on up there on Wall Street, other than the whole place is corrupt and money hungry. This film demonstrates that in one chance scene with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and Mathew McConaughey, who has this cool chest beating song that I’m sure will be stuck in my head for days.

Frantic. The first half of this film is very quick. There are cutscenes to random clips from mostly the 70s and, just like the reaction from the cocaine that is being ingested, the whole first half or so moves along at a level that is far above what it should be doing. Now, I did notice that as the drug use lessened, the pace slowed. If that correlation was done on purpose then it was a stroke of genius!

New girl. Amy Adams. Jessica Biel. Jennifer Lawrence. Scarlett Johansson. Jennifer Aniston. Sandra Bullock. These are just a few names of the “hot” actresses (use whichever definition for that term that you wish) at the time. Truth be told, some of them are getting a bit long in the tooth, others just don’t have the draw they one had, while some are just coming into their prime. Enter Margot Robbie, she has a somewhat small role in this film as DiCaprio’s second wife, but, damn, what she does with those scenes shows that this is someone that is more than a pretty face and a hot body. There is a real talent there. I mean, she is able to go toe to toe with DiCaprio, a man some consider on the list of the greatest actors currently working.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I want to come back to the pacing of this film, but this time I will focus on the second half of the film. This the part of the film where we are taken down a darker path than what was shown to us in the first half, also the comedy seems to be less in this half and, as I mentioned before, the frantic pace has drastically slowed. In short, the film has become a serious drama. Given that this is the part of the film that deals with the criminal activities, it is understood, but I have to wonder if there would have been a way to do this without slowing things down and making one remember than this is a 3 hour film!

Leo. Nothing against DiCaprio, but what does he have on Scorsese, or vice versa? It seems like he has been in every one of his films since he made the jump from TV to film, maybe even before. I will say, though, that it is not out of the ordinary for a director to have a go-to guy. Quentin Tarantino has Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Howard has Tom Hanks, Alfred Hitchcock has Cary Grant, and Tim Burton has Johnny Depp (remains to be seen if he keep Helena Bonham Carter after their split). DiCaprio does a great job in this role, but I can’t help but feel as if it would have worked better with someone else and Scorsese just cast his golden boy for the sake of casting him.

Glorification. Have you noticed that some of the most popular “heroes” in culture are actually deplorable human beings? Think about it, pirates weren’t exactly moral, upstanding citizens, knights did more raping and pillaging than saving villages and such, and most of the names from the Old West that we look up to are the villains. For some reason, we celebrate the villains. Take a look in the comic book world. As popular as Batman is, it is the Joker that more people want to be (I know I did). There is a fascinating documentary about this very subject that I recommend, Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics. What does this all have to do with this film? Well, our “hero”, if you will, in this flick is DiCaprio, obviously, but he and his lackeys are actually taking money from their clients. It really isn’t shown in the film, so that his character, Jordan Belfort, can come out smelling like roses, but that is what really happened. Why are we celebrating this villainy? I can’t tell you, but I’m sure the people who got ripped off by the real Belfort were none too pleased about this.

Final verdict on The Wolf of Wall Street? Well, first off all, it is way too long for what it is. Scorsese has done much better work. There is a lack of depth to this film that seems as if this was either rushed into production, theaters, or there was just a lack of care. On the positive side though, we get great performances from DiCaprio, introduced to Margot Robbie, and continue to see Jonah Hill prove his acting mettle. Who would’ve thought the Seth Rogen clone from Superbad would turn out to be a competent actor? So, do I recommend this? In terms of cinematic works, yes. While flawed, this is still a fine piece of cinema. However, if you’re just looking for a film to kick back and enjoy, then this isn’t for you. If not for all the hookers and blow, this would be more artsy-fartsy version of Wall Street in some respects. It is what it is, though, and only your personal proclivities can determine whether you’ll like this or not.

4 out of 5 stars

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6 Responses to “The Wolf of Wall Street”

  1. Great review. I agree and disagree about a few things, but I do like the points you make even about the things I disagree with. I think Leo was exceptional in the role and I can’t think of a replacement that I would rather have…

  2. Mystery Man Says:

    –insert random internet vitriol because you disagreed with what I said– lol

    everyone has their own opinions. its what makes us human, right?

    I stand by what I said, but I still cant think of anyone to replace leo in this role, so perhaps he is the best for it?

  3. Oh dude, dude lol….I know we do! I wasn’t criticizing yours and actually complimenting you on making good points about stuff I did disagree with. I just honestly meant to say that I couldn’t think of anybody else better for the job haha

  4. Mystery Man Says:

    oh…whoops! my bad…didn’t mean to sound like I was jumping down your throat. lol

  5. Awesome! I thought I upset you a bit haha

  6. Mystery Man Says:

    nah…takes a bit more than that to upset me…lol

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