Susan Granger's review of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'
Published 12:59 pm, Friday, December 27, 2013
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.
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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.