One of the toughest things to do in film making is to take a true story or biography and make it into a comedy. Called The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s a factual tale that takes you into the underbelly of a corrupt stock broker who swindles huge amounts of money from many investors that were conned into giving up their life savings. Brought to the screen by the director of some of the most chilling crime films, Martin Scorsese delivers an explosive dark comedy of wit, charm, sex and a lot of drug use.
The movie opens with Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) getting a job at a stock brokerage firm run by Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), a genius in the trading game. Mark finds Belfort a quick learner and teaches him the inner secrets of success in the business. He becomes successful with Hanna, but the economy takes a nose dive and he finds himself upside-down. Seeing the bigger picture Belfort gets an idea of selling stock that has pricing in pennies and finds people will buy them on a gamble. When he meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) they decide to open their own business called Stratton Oakmont.
Well, that’s what takes place in the first 20 minutes; the rest of the 160 minutes shows the rise, creation of a business with hundreds of sellers, Belfort’s high life and his fall from the biggest mound of money ever amassed from unsuspecting investors. Impossible you say? Based on Jordan Belfort’s own book, this wild, bombastic, irreverent cinema treat is a pretty good vision of the facts.
The film gets really wacky at times as Director Scorsese puts his acting troop thru their paces. He keeps his film moving at a fast clip making the three hours fly by with a lot of laughs, intrigue and startling realization that this wacky story actually happened. I like the way he introduces his characters making them likeable at times even in the face of committing one of the biggest stock scams of all time.
The whole cast as an ensemble has to be commended here showing a lot of commitment to their roles. Making the most impact and creating a character that suckers you into the film, DiCaprio gives a standout performance that rivals anyone in a leading role this year. His ability to draw you to Jordan Belfort with a magnetic charm, fascinate on how he captivates his followers and then like a chameleon turns into a wicked drug user using his massive fortune to wine, dine and gratify is testimony to his star quality.
There’s also a nice surprise in the support characters and that’s the fine acting of Jonah Hill. I didn’t agree with his nomination for Money Ball, but here he’s amazing. He carries a good portion of the film as Belfort’s partner Donnie Azoff, a disciple who takes orders and carries them out without question. Although he’s a likeable guy he’s more of a puppet for Belfort, one who will get anything for his boss, even hide drugs up his butt if need be. This role really marks him as a stellar support character, but I’m still waiting to see him get a part that shows he can really carry a big film as a lead.
The Wolf of Wall Street settles nicely in my top ten of the year and hopefully it will get an Oscar nod for Best Picture. The film has a great script, impeccable acting and outstanding direction, certainly qualifying it for one of the slots. While the film has been touted as a dark comedy, the subject matter pulls it into the drama area enough to challenge others of its ilk. If it does get nominated there are only a couple of films that could stand in its way for top glory.
The Wolf of Wall Street has been rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence. The sexual scenes are quite over-the-top and nudity is frequent, so be extra cautious that anyone under 13 not be allowed to see the film even with adult guardians.
FINAL ANALYSIS: One of the most outstanding films for 2013. (A)
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Crime
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence
Running Time: 3 hrs
Opening Date: December 25, 2013
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures