Greed might not be good, but it can be funny

Le­onardo Di­Caprio stars in Mar­tin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’

Jordan Belfort is about as vile of a hu­man be­ing as they come. He’s an amor­al, ma­ter­i­al­ist­ic, greedy, drug-ad­dicted crim­in­al. He is not a guy you root for to win. Yet, he’s ex­tremely fas­cin­at­ing.

Belfort is the sub­ject of The Wolf of Wall Street, an atyp­ic­al com­edy movie from Mar­tin Scorsese. However, Scorsese’s com­edy is more of the dark twis­ted hu­mor vari­ety, and not silly goof­ball stuff like An­chor­man 2.

Its re­lease marks the fifth time Le­onardo Di­Caprio and Scorsese have worked to­geth­er (The De­par­ted, Shut­ter Is­land, The Avi­at­or, Gangs of New York). Watch­ing Leo play Jordan Belfort is what makes the movie fun. This is cer­tainly one of his best, if not the best, per­form­ances. He has come a long way from be­ing a teen heartthrob in Ti­tan­ic. Though I doubt he’ll win an Oscar be­cause his char­ac­ter is just too de­plor­able. I think those Academy folks will lean to­ward a more sym­path­et­ic char­ac­ter, like Chi­wetel Ejiofor from 12 Years a Slave. But maybe I’ll be sur­prised.

I was quite con­cerned about the three-hour runtime go­ing in, and while the movie was long, I was al­most sad to see it end. I was also con­cerned it’d be like a re­hash­ing of Wall Street giv­en some of the timeline is sim­il­ar (the 1980s).

Belfort’s love of money is evid­ent from the get-go. When he loses his first Wall Street job after the 1987 Black Monday stock mar­ket crash, Belfort re­sponds to an ad look­ing for stock­brokers on Long Is­land. Turns out these guys are per­petu­at­ing penny-stock frauds. Belfort’s slick sales skills make him a penny stock suc­cess, and soon he takes his scam to the big time, open­ing up his own in­vest­ment firm, Strat­ton Oak­mont, and bring­ing along his friends for the ride. There, he en­gages in more fraud and money laun­der­ing.

His main go-to guy is Don­nie Azoff (Jo­nah Hill), who prob­ably is as despic­able as Belfort. Hill puts in quite a mem­or­able per­form­ance. An­oth­er great per­form­ance came from Mat­thew Mc­Conaughey, who was in the movie for only a few minutes, but man­aged to steal the scene. He plays a ment­or to young Jordan at his first Wall Street job.

Even­tu­ally, the eyes of the SEC and FBI land on Belfort and Strat­ton Oak­mont. FBI agent Patrick Den­ham (Kyle Chand­ler) be­gins in­vest­ig­at­ing Belfort, in­tent on tak­ing him down.

Be­sides money, Belfort also loves sex (hook­ers in par­tic­u­lar) and drugs (Quaaludes are his drug of choice). He cruelly cheats on his first wife with the beau­ti­ful Na­omi (Mar­got Rob­bie) and ends up mar­ry­ing Na­omi, who know­ingly puts up with Belfort’s dirty deal­ings.

The movie def­in­itely pushes the R-rat­ing about as far as it can. There is some graph­ic nud­ity and eye­brow-rais­ing sex scenes. And then mix in the drug use and you have some really adult stuff go­ing on.

Riv­et­ing though it may be, this movie un­for­tu­nately glor­i­fies what this guy did. I could see some im­pres­sion­able folks be­ing en­chanted by the lav­ish life­style, hook­ers and drugs on dis­play in this film. I cer­tainly hope no one sees Jordan Belfort as a role mod­el, but that’s the danger with glor­i­fy­ing such a despic­able char­ac­ter. ••

Movie Grade: A-

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