Shades of green – Money can do a lot of things to people; good, bad or in-between. Money can also change you, depending what’s on the table. So, you can imagine back in the 90’s when the stock market essentially crashed, what people started doing. Desperation sets in and the next thing you know, you have a host of overnight companies setting up shop to take advantage of people, the underlying theme to Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” based off Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name.
What’s it about? While this true story is primarily based on one man’s account of the corruption that was taking place on Wall Street back in the 1990s, it does still speak to how money rules all. And after passing his Series 7 Exam and landing a job on Wall Street, young Jordan Belfort was ready to take on the world. A couple days later, Black Monday occurs ending that dream promptly, leaving Belfort with just his pride. So, when his wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) showed him a newspaper ad of a Long Island company looking for help, it didn’t take much for him to drive across the bridge to check it out. Dealing with penny stocks, this company was nothing like Jordan learned about or experienced in his brief history on Wall Street. But, it was a job and he quickly rose to the top thanks to his style and decent competition. Shortly thereafter, a salesman by the name of Donnie (Jonah Hill) who lives in his same apartment complex, approaches him and the next thing you know, they were creating a company together. Using the penny stock model as their base, they quickly started making money and within months had over 1,000 employees defrauding investors with bad stock sales. But, what goes up must come down as Belfort’s master plan began to crumble around him leading to a conclusion that will remind you what money can do if used for the wrong purpose.
Who was in it? One of the many things I love about a Scorsese film is the cast. For whatever reason, he knows just how to pull in the right kind of talent. Sounds simple and maybe it is, but for the life of me, I can’t remember ever watching a Martin Scorsese film and thinking the actor or actress is wrong for the part. It doesn't happen and that’s a credit to Marty, who gets the best out of people, but also knows how to create a balance between the bigger stars to those we have never seen before. He has done this as long as I can remember and here, found another 'gem' with Margot Robbie. What a performance and one I never saw coming opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. She handled herself like she had done it before, going toe to toe with Leo and anyone else that stepped into frame. I was impressed with the young Aussie, making me think this might be one of those breakout roles you always hear about, but rarely see live. Other notables include Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner and Jonah Hill in one of his best performances to date. But, let’s be clear, this was Leonardo DiCaprio’s film. Working with Scorsese for the fifth time, you can see why Marty likes him so much. Not only is he a great narrator, a staple for most Scorsese films, he knows how to get the best out of his fellow cast members. Plus he manages himself better that he ever gets credit for. And here, he took all the highs and lows of a dynamic personality like Jordan Belfort and knocked them out of the park. He was incredible in a performance that I will look back on as one of the best 2013 had to offer.
The Master – It’s no secret for anyone that knows me or has read my reviews for any long period of time that Martin Scorsese is my favorite director. He’s not perfect by any means and for some an acquired taste, but I love everything that he has done for Hollywood and am amazed each time I sit down to watch one of his films. Sure, I’m biased, but can you blame me when the guy has produced such iconic films like “Raging Bull,” “The Color of Money,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Gangs of New York” and “The Departed.” Sure, they all feel like a good hour to two hours longer than they are, but that’s Marty at his craft. He leaves no stone unturned and “The Wolf of Wall Street” was no different, as there was more thrown into this movie than I could have ever imagined. Sure, I had some idea of what I was walking into, but to get the kind of entertainment Scorsese created here was unexpected. Yeah, there was a ton of drug use, sexual content and graphic nudity, but it all felt so natural with the story taking place. In fact, after a while, you don’t even notice it which may sound crazy. But, that’s how immersed you get into this story, one that contained over 500 uses of the F-word, setting a new record for the most uses of the word in a mainstream non-documentary film. Hey, that’s not easy, even for Marty, but just another anecdote to a film that makes you feel every emotion by the time the credits roll.
Bottom Line – “The Wolf of Wall Street” might not be on your list of films to see this winter, but trust me when I say, there will not be a more entertaining way to spend 3 hours. It sounds like a long time because it is, but I guarantee you I will walk away feeling as if I just went to the movies, something very few directors can accomplish.
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