Combustible Celluloid
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With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jon Bernthal, Cristin Milioti, Christine Ebersole, Kenneth Choi, Joanna Lumley, Spike Jonze, Brian Sacca, Ethan Suplee, Martin Klebba, Katarina Cas, P. J. Byrne, Madison McKinley, Barry Rothbart
Written by: Terence Winter, based on a book by Jordan Belfort
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence
Running Time: 179
Date: 12/25/2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Howling 'Wolf'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's clear that David O. Russell's current movie American Hustle, about con artists in the 1970s, owes a great deal to two specific Martin Scorsese movies, GoodFellas and Casino.

Now comes the genuine article, a new movie by Scorsese himself. Ironically though, The Wolf of Wall Street owes a debt to the same two movies.

In his fifth time out with Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street trader whose first day on the job happens to be Monday, October 19, 1987, when one of the biggest market crashes in history occurred.

He accepts a job trading "penny stocks," shares of small, semi-worthless companies, for huge commissions.

He borrows this philosophy, opens his own firm and takes it back to Wall Street. His operation is largely illegal, but he makes such huge piles of cash so fast it's intoxicating.

Jordan also has an addiction problem: alcohol, prostitutes, and drugs of all types, but especially Quaaludes.

Jonah Hill co-stars as his right-hand man, Donnie Azoff, who enjoys the ride just as much as Jordan. Margot Robbie plays the stunningly beautiful Naomi Lapaglia, who captures Jordan's eye, if not his heart.

A great many other actors turn up, but Matthew McConaughey is especially memorable as an early mentor for Jordan.

The movie's most impressive feat is its reckless, monstrous energy, fueled by something both exciting and rotten, much like that incredible, jittery "helicopter" sequence that climaxed GoodFellas.

Though the themes and techniques are similar to Scorsese's earlier films, The Wolf of Wall Street is the flat-out, below-the-belt funniest thing he has done.

Every few minutes, the movie hits you with a scene that's so shocking and high-spirited -- such as when Jordan attempts to drive his Lamborghini after a powerful Quaalude has kicked in -- that laughter can be the only response.

Scorsese's longtime editor, triple Oscar-winner Thelma Schoonmaker, keeps up this exhausting pace for an impossible 179 minutes.

But whereas American Hustle aims mostly for fun, The Wolf of Wall Street eventually reveals its true theme during the final scene.

Jordan has become a motivational speaker, and Scorsese lingers on a shot of the faces in his audience. They're normal people. No one stands out. But they're all missing something, and they seem to think that Jordan has the key to happiness.

It's not exactly happiness Scorsese shows us in The Wolf of Wall Street, but rather desires fulfilled. And, as the old saying goes, "be careful what you wish for."

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