DiCaprio is charismatically loathsome in Scorsese’s ‘Wolf ’

McConaughey is a scene stealer in this melodramatic marvel of a film

McClatchyDecember 25, 2013 

Leonardo DiCaprio’s most charismatic performance ever anchors Martin Scorsese’s robust and raunchy lowlifes-of-high-finance comedy “The Wolf of Wall Street.” This is their greatest teaming, a veritable “Citizen Kane” of the post-“greed is good” era — three hours of cocaine and orgies and high-living by the sorts of gauche gamblers who brought that age, and the world economy, to its knees.

It is Scorsese’s “La Dolce Vita,” a manic, coke-fueled stock market “Goodfellas” following the rise and epic fall of a crook.

DiCaprio is Jordan Belfort, a young broker-in- training who takes the mes- merizing patter from his drugs, sex and making-money mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) to heart. The name of the game, Hanna purrs, is “moving the money from the client’s pocket to your pocket.”

This isn’t Oliver Stone’s preachy, good-man-falls-far opera “Wall Street.” This is about Jordan’s layoff during the financial crash of 1987 and his rebirth as a penny stocks-trading bottom feeder, the sort of smooth, money-printing huckster who lures protégés and followers like a revival preacher. Donnie (Jonah Hill) is the first. Assorted other “guys from the neighborhood” follow.

That’s the genius of this. Savvier Wall Street pundits saw how brokers, traders and derivatives specialists went from making a good living in the early Reagan years to making obscene amounts of money by the end of the Reagan years.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” captures the delusional, under-educated ignoramuses with nothing but hunger who nag clients into buying stocks that might make them money, might lose money. But either way, these guys got paid.

DiCaprio brings a religious fervor to this performance. Where his Gatsby was shy, aloof and shady, Jordan Belfort is a combination of Oral Roberts and Joel Osteen, pep rallying his flock to his prosperity gospel.

“There is no nobility in poverty,” he thunders.

Marriages founder and a mountain of cocaine goes up Jordan and his team’s noses. Hill, wearing shiny, fake teeth and that boyish hedonism that’s been his trademark, brings a crackling, improvisational feel to his scenes with DiCaprio, a blur of words and blow blasting from one to the other as they cannot believe how rich they’re getting and how they’re squandering all this money.

It’s a movie whose melodramatic flourishes — a storm at sea in which all Jordan and Donnie can do is cope with Quaaludes, a plane crash — are made no less melodramatic by the fact that they’re true.

Three hours might not seem excessive for an indictment of Wall Street ethics. But for a comedy that glamorizes the Bacchanalia of Belfort’s world it’s a bit much.

There’s too much repetition, too many scenes left in to show off the high-rollers’ failings and petty ambitions.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

4 stars

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler

Director: Martin Scorsese

Running time: 3:00

Rated: R; sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence

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