Martin Scorsese's fantastic The Wolf of Wall Street starts off innocently enough. It's a low-fi '90s television ad for a stock brokerage company called Stratton Oakmont. The voice-over for the clean-cut, well-dressed company promises "stability, integrity and pride," and a peaceful CGI lion is apparently there to drive that point home.
Thirty seconds later, the company's fearless leader Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is shown throwing a Velcroed little person against a massive target in front of his wild underlings, poorly landing a helicopter while high on Quaaludes, and snorting cocaine out of a female orifice.
This female might have been Belfort's bombshell mistress-turned-wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) -- I honestly don't remember, as countless naked bodies blend together in this three-hour epic about the cult of personality known as Jordan Belfort.
Belfort's firm Stratton Oakmont brought ridiculous profits in the early years of the '90s, but that's because Belfort and his minions were defrauding investors with a sneaky pump-and-dump scheme that led Forbes to call him "a twisted version of Robin Hood who takes from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers."
And they are quite a merry band, led by Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a brash salesman who has almost as many vices as Jordan. He and the rest of the Stratton Oakmont crew worship Jordan for his freewheeling management style, or just because he makes them a ton of money. But the opulent frat boy atmosphere at the short-lived company is weirdly thrilling to live through vicariously, even for three hours (unlike Casino, this one doesn't feel that long).
It's the most debaucherous movie Scorsese has ever done, but also his funniest (and probably the funniest movie to come out this year), mostly for the vulgar hustle of Jordan and the rest of Stratton Oakmont (and Matthew McConaughey, who steals yet another scene this year as Jordan's short-term mentor). It closely resembles the plot of Goodfellas -- just replace the gangsters with stockbrokers and bullets with boobs.
The Wolf of Wall Street is better, simply because Jordan Belfort is a more compelling character than Henry Hill. Henry Hill was a nobody -- the mob world would have gotten along fine without him.
Belfort (especially with the magnetic, magnanimous way that DiCaprio plays him) was somebody. Sure, he was a selfish, degenerate drug addict/adulterer/fraudster. But an ambitious one.
Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence.
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