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Susan Granger's review of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Published 12:59 pm, Friday, December 27, 2013
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In the "Hollywood Reporter," Leonardo DiCaprio referred to this raw, 165-minute cinematic bacchanal as a "modern-day Caligula." That's an apt description for the hedonistic Wall Street saga, which is peppered with wild orgies, as crude, money-hungry, drug-fueled swindlers cavort, celebrating how they've deluded and cheated naive investors, spending their money on hookers, liquor, cocaine, heroin and Quaaludes.

When sinister, smooth-talking stockbroker Julian Belfort (DiCaprio) and his sidekick Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) make a killing with penny stocks, it's only the beginning. Soon their Stratton Oakmont brokerage house is raking in millions every minute, epitomizing America's amoral addiction to the acquisition of wealth.

Based on Jordan Belfort's self-serving memoir and scripted as an episodic black comedy about moral corruption by Terence Winter (creator of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"), it's directed by Martin Scorsese as a gleefully vulgar glorification of the Seven Deadly Sins -- primarily greed, plus pride, gluttony, sloth, envy, wrath and lust -- with sex/nudity scenes that earn its MPAA hard-R rating.

In addition to needless repetition and despicable excess, there are no sympathetic characters, no contrition and no redemption. Indeed, after arrogant Belfort spends 22 months in a country-club prison for securities fraud and money laundering, he's eager to carve out a new career: motivating future salesmen to fleece the flock.

This is the fifth collaboration between 38-year-old DiCaprio and 72-year-old Scorsese, who share a similar irreverence about utilizing film as an art form -- in this case, depicting obscenely ostentatious debauchery. DiCaprio and Hill authentically embody their obsessive, detestably narcissistic characters, while additional participants include scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey and suave Jean Dujardin -- along with Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner and Jon Favreau.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a cynical, unconventional, edgy 8 -- and it's incredibly polarizing. While some men may relish the exuberant, alpha-male energy, many women will find the depravity not only disgusting but also repugnant. Greed is not good -- it's horrifying -- and absurdly hilarious.