Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Plot: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) who rose through Wall Street as President of Stratton Oakmont, a fast rising company full of illegal and corrupted activities, bringing on the attention of a full scale federal investigation.

Within the first ten seconds of watching The Wolf of Wall Street, you immediately know you’re watching a Martin Scorsese film. And it’s not just because Leonardo DiCaprio is in it, but because it has that Goodfellas feel. That feeling that you are about to watch an insanely entertaining movie about crazy criminals, people hopped on drugs galore, but above all else, fantastic characters and acting. Should this be funny and entertaining? Probably not. But when you have Scorsese at the helm, he delivers it all — comedy, drama, substance, and whether you love them or hate them, characters you can’t take your eyes off of. This is also without question the funniest movie of his career. It really says something about the state of comedy right now when a Martin Scorsese movie is the funniest film I’ve seen all year. But as great as Scorsese is in the directing chair, this is Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie. This is his opus.

When you look at DiCaprio’s filmography, you could make the argument it’s just as impressive as Scorsese’s. I feel like I write this in every review I do with DiCaprio, but he really is the best working actor in Hollywood right now. With the exception of maybe The Aviator, another Scorsese/DiCaprio hook-up, this is the performance of his career. I can pinpoint so many scenes where I say “Oscar moment.” “Oscar moment right there!” “There’s another one!” “Oscar!” DiCaprio is pure energy. He does it all in this film- cocky, big dramatic moments, inspirational speeches, and comedy! Yes, DiCaprio is hilarious. And honestly, he ‘s funnier than so many other comedians working in film today. There’s a scene where Jordan Belfort is on some crazy drug, and the physical comedy DiCaprio does is equal to some of Jim Carrey’s best movies. I’m not kidding. There’s also sequences of absolutely riveting pump-up speeches that Belfort has to give his team. They are so well delivered that even though you know this guy is a swindler, I still wanted to buy stocks from him. But when the comedy and charisma needs to be tossed aside, we also get vintage dramatic Leo. This has been one of the best years of Lead Actor performances I can remember in a long time, but this is the one…GIVE HIM THE OSCAR!

While DiCaprio certainly steals the show, there’s no shortage of supporting roles. Jonah Hill is really putting together a nice career. His performance in Moneyball is a bit overrated, but here he delivers exactly what the character requires. Hill plays Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s right hand man. He’s an absolute schmuck and loose cannon, but also downright hilarious. There’s a bar scene between him and DiCaprio where Hill is wearing this sweater wrapped around him like a preppy douche that for some reason had me in stitches. Never in my life did I think Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill would make a good pairing, but this is one of the best bromances ever in a movie. Their chemistry is magic.

The year of Matthew McConaughey continues. McConaughey is barely in the film, but don’t worry, he makes his presence known. Kyle Chandler also has a solid role as the FBI Agent investigating Belfort’s company. I feel like Chandler is going to be one of those guys who shows up in 500 movies as a supporting character, but you’ll always appreciate that he’s there, ala a Bryan Cranston.

We also get to know Belfort’s main crew, the founding members of Stratton Oakmont. These guys are just a bunch of degenerates and all have hilarious chemistry. They don’t get a lot of screen time, but you know exactly who they are whenever they pop up. The role that shocked me the most though was Rob Reiner as Belfort’s dad. He’s fricking hysterical! There’s one scene where he’s trying to watch TV, and I thought I was going to fall out of my seat laughing so hard. Awesome performance from Reiner!

With all the great acting, we do have to bring it back to Scorsese. He’s just brilliant here. What impressed me most about the tone is that the first two thirds of the film are basically a zany dark comedy. It’s just absolutely nuts, but there’s still a gravitas about it. Towards the third act though, it definitely shifts into more dramatic territory, but you totally buy it. This is credit to Scorsese’s direction as he makes a smooth transition. Before this film came out, there was a lot of controversy about the length (3 hours), but it’s totally justified. Could the film have been edited down? Probably. There’s a lot of comedic bits that aren’t necessary, but it would have been a shame to lose them. The film’s biggest weakness though is that the third act does drag a bit, and wraps up abruptly. At the end of the day though, you don’t feel the three hours, and that’s an impressive feat in it of itself. I just wouldn’t have a coke or pepsi while watching it.

The Wolf of Wall Street is filmmaking at it’s finest. The plot may lose focus at times, but you are so engulfed in the obscene decadence and absurdity of the characters, who cares. You’ll be laughing your ass off, and I can’t stress enough how good of a performance DiCaprio delivers. Scorsese does it again…what a surprise.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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