MRR Review: "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Movie Review: "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Rating: R (Strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, language, and some violence) Length: 180 minutes

Release Date: December 25, 2013

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Genre: Biography, Comedy, Crime


"The Wolf of Wall Street" is a 2013 comedy and biography of Jordan Belfort, a brilliant but corrupt stockbroker who reaches the top of his career in the 1990s. Jordan rises through the ranks of the Wall Street elite by using a blend of ruthless strategy and glib charm. He eventually scores his biggest success by trading penny stocks and defrauding investors in one of the most over-the-top financial crime schemes in American history. The Belfort scandal revealed a much deeper network of corruption and illegal activities among some of Wall Street's top players, leading to Belfort's subsequent arrest for securities fraud.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" depicts Belfort's personal and professional rise and fall. The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction rings true in this genre-bending film. "The Wolf of Wall Street" may come off as over the top and theatrical, but its major plot points are based entirely on real-life events. Leonardo DiCaprio does a marvelous job of playing the grandiose Jordan Belfort and lending believability to his inevitable moral decline. Director Martin Scorsese takes the helm of this comedic masterpiece, and fans and critics alike are reporting that "The Wolf of Wall Street" is one of his best directorial efforts in the last decade. In traditional Scorsese style, he manages to paint a picture of the corrupt and scandalous life led by Jordan Belfort and his associates without casting unfair judgment. The scandals that rocked Wall Street in the 1990s are contrasted subtly with those that affect the market today, making sure that no one walks away from this film in sanctimonious hindsight.

While Leonardo DiCaprio fills the shoes of the male lead, he is flanked by one of the most astounding supporting casts of any recent comedy. Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill portray some of Belfort's closest associates and lend their own humorous charms to the film. From minor supporting roles to the film's leads, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is filled with bold and dynamic actors who have a full mastery of their craft. DiCaprio takes a villain on paper and turns him into a surprisingly likable guy, making it difficult to tell exactly who the audience should be rooting for as the film moves on. Scorsese excels in drawing his audiences into the seedy underbelly of the criminal class with his writing and use of heavy atmosphere, but he achieves the same goal with considerably different means in this film. In fact, the entire movie is filled with bright scenery and open camera angles, creating a sharp contrast between the cinematography and the dark themes of betrayal and corruption.

Comedy directors often find it difficult to strike a balance between laughs and a solid story line, but Martin Scorsese has no such problem with "The Wolf of Wall Street." The film moves effortlessly from one major scene to the next, fleshing out its characters and allowing them to communicate through their own blend of sarcasm and sincerity. "The Wolf of Wall Street" could be called a situational comedy in the sense that the audacity of the circumstances Belfort and his associates find themselves in is contrasted by their reactions. Belfort himself regularly breaks the law with a completely nonchalant demeanor, making his character as charming as he is despicable.

Perhaps what makes "The Wolf of Wall Street" stand out most is how different it is from other films that have tackled the same subject matter. "Wall Street" is considered the most iconic film when it comes to depicting the lies and intrigue behind the financial industry's seedier practices, but it does so by painting the characters in a dark and almost fiendish light. While "The Wolf of Wall Street" paints its characters in an almost lighthearted manner at times, this unique stylistic choice does nothing to diminish the severity of their actions. Scorsese manages to make sure that his audience understands how the actions that Belfort and others like him took affected the lives of many innocent investors and employees trying to earn an honest living. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a must-see for anyone who wants to better understand the nature of the 1990s Wall Street scandal as it pertains to today's financial culture without sitting through a dull and lifeless documentary. In fact, "The Wolf of Wall Street" may just be the brightest and most exuberant film to hit theaters this winter season. The unique filming style and great performances alone are more than enough reason to give this witty and dramatic crime film a chance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5