Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's electrifying tale of sex and drugs and very dirty money.


Martin Scorsese's new movie hits the ground running with a montage of dwarf tossing, sex grappling and extreme drug behavior of a sort I don't believe I've ever seen on-screen before. Then it gets really crazy. Frantically edited down from four hours to three, and now arriving at the last moment for Oscar consideration, The Wolf of Wall Street is hilarious and appalling and, by the end, a little exhausting. Scorsese shows us bad men doing very bad things—ruining lives, treating women like dirt—and declines to take a moral stand about what we're seeing. And with Leonardo DiCaprio giving an explosive performance at the center of the film—sometimes in long, rabble-rousing orations—it's hard not to get caught up in these people's demented exuberance.

The story is true-life, drawn from a memoir by Jordan Belfort, a stock-market shark of unapologetically skeezy inclinations and prodigious appetites. We meet Belfort (DiCaprio) arriving on Wall Street in 1987, and being quickly wised up by a top broker named Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, taking total possession of the movie in a very brief appearance). The dirty secret of stock-trading, Hanna tells Belfort, is that while the clients are only getting rich on paper, the brokers are getting cash-rich on commissions. He counsels taking as much cocaine as possible.

Before Belfort can put this advice to use, though, the Black Monday stock-market crash wipes out his job. He's reduced to working at a grubby suburban "boiler room" that specializes in pumping and dumping penny stocks to the financial detriment of workaday suckers reeled in by visions of quick riches. Belfort is astonished to learn that, while the standard Wall Street broker's commission is one per cent, in the penny-stock market, it's 50 times that. He quickly takes over this piddly operation and turns it into a major company called Stratton Oakmont. Before long he's wearing $2000 suits and putting $26,000 dinners on his credit card. Money, Jordan says, "makes you a better person." (In real life, Belfort was ultimately jailed for inflicting $200-million dollars' worth of damage on his clients.)

There's barely a dull scene in the movie. Belfort acquires a henchman, a brash weasel named Donny Azoff (Jonah Hill in one of his best performances), and moves his burgeoning enterprise into swank new offices. Here we witness uproarious staff parties with call girls servicing the cheering brokers right at their desks. Emulating the boss, everyone is cranked up on booze and drugs. There's a gaudy beach-house bacchanal and a wild orgy on an airplane (the movie is heavy with full-frontal nudity, almost exclusively female). None of the carousing scummers can imagine the good times will ever end.

But after Forbes magazine slams Belfort as "The Wolf of Wall Street' (he welcomes the recognition), a straight-arrow FBI agent named Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins taking an interest in Stratton's dodgy doings. By this point, Belfort is roaring out of control. Despite the blizzard of cocaine that blows through the movie, his drug of choice is methaqualone, and there's a long, hysterically funny sequence, following massive Quaalude ingestion, in which he's reduced to crawling from a country club out to his car as if he were swimming through a sea of glue. ("I went straight to the drool phase," Jordan says in voiceover.) It's borderline-slapstick territory into which I don't think DiCaprio has ever ventured before, and he's surprisingly terrific.

Early critical reaction to the film has been understandably divided. In his classic Goodfellas, which this movie sometimes resembles, Scorsese grounded the fun in a clear-eyed acknowledgement of what monsters his mobsters really were. Here, he presents Jordan and his fellow shysters simply as raucous lowlifes, and he invites us to laugh along with them. There's virtually no character development: through all the episodes of unbounded debauchery, no one has second thoughts or regrets—everyone remains as heedless at the end as he was at the beginning. And apart from Cristin Milioti, playing Jordan's shabbily discarded first wife, and the sleek Margot Robbie as her trophy-babe successor, women in this picture are a tertiary concern. (Jordan offers one female employee $10,000 to allow her head to be shaved while her coworkers watch; she accepts because she wants the money to buy breast implants.)

But there's so much to marvel at—not least the excitement of seeing a legendary director, at the age of 71, working close to the peak of his powers, his energy and technical invention still dazzling. (As is his facility with music—the picture is filled, counter-intuitively, with rowdy R&B oldies by Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker.) The story eventually stretches out to Geneva, where Belfort consorts with a slick banker named Saurel (Jean Dujardin, star of The Artist). There follows an elaborate maritime sequence that feels distinctly out of place, and from this point the movie begins to falter. (You wonder how much better it might have been if Scorsese and his peerless editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, had had sufficient time to tighten it.) But The Wolf of Wall Street is an electrifying piece of work, and the actors are wonderful, especially DiCaprio and Hill, who go all out and sometimes well beyond. Whatever the movie's flaws, it's a great Rabelaisian entertainment whose grimy pleasures can't be denied.

NEXT: Brickbat: This Would Make a Great Movie with Kevin Bacon

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  1. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a broker

    1. ? I know I’d go from rags to riches…. ?

    2. I’ve got to go check the stock ticker, check the stock ticker.

    3. my best friend’s half-sister got paid $13253 a week ago. she is making money on the computer and moved in a $315200 house. All she did was get blessed and apply the information explained on this web page…………………

  2. Whatever the movie’s flaws, it’s a great Rabelaisian entertainment whose grimy pleasures can’t be denied.

    Is that two thumbs up or not I can’t decide

    1. 4 out 5 monocles.

  3. I really loved quaaludes. For a good stretch of the late eighties they were a once a week thing for me.

  4. Are there any movies about wall street that do not portray it as a den of greed and corruption? That do not portray brokers as devils incarnate or cold, selfish greedy monsters? Is this Scorsese’s contribution to OWS or did he also attend protests? Was he that guy caught shitting on a police car or is this his act of public defecation?

    1. Good point.
      Wall Street is filled with only saints and boy scouts, looking out for the common man. The next Pope should come from Wall Street.
      That’s the story Scorcese should be telling.

      1. Actually it is filled with people. Some are good, some are bad. They are all there to make money. The successful ones do it by helping raise capital that builds companies like the one that enables you to come here and spew your proggie vomit. Companies that collectively employ millions of people. They manage stock investments that pay the pensions of millions of people.

        The ones that dont do that dont last very long.

      2. Man, you really showed that strawman who’s boss!

      3. Actually, there is an outsized number of actual boy scouts working in the financial markets. Wall Street ultimately hires two types of people – salesmen and analysts. The core of either profession is credibility. Without that, you really don’t have much to sell.

        If you bothered reading the story, the so-called “Wolf of Wall Street” didn’t actually work for a firm almost anyone would consider a Wall Street firm. He worked for a bucket shop.

    2. Hollywood studios and agencies are really no less corrupt or hedonistic than Wall Street. As bad as “Entourage” was, the one thing it actually did very well was portraying the inherently slimy nature of the movie production business and how most actors really aren’t in control of their careers.

      1. I work in the financial markets. My wife was an actress. I’ll say this much. You’re being misleading in saying that studios and agencies are “no less corrupt” than Wall Street. Show business is orders of magnitude more skeevy in the way business gets done than Wall Street would ever dream of being. Behaviors that would get you kicked to the curb faster than you can raise your hand on Wall Street are commonplace in the entertainment industry.

        1. Absolutely true.

          I watched a coworker get kicked to the curb for lying about the start date of a transaction. Had she told the truth, she’d have been in a little trouble. If her lie had been the truth, she would have been in a tiny amount of trouble. Once the lie became clear, the boss fired her on the spot. Told her to go home and that we’d box and mail her her personal stuff.

          She was one of the rising stars too.

          1. I’m assuming it was to a customer?

            In either case, it isn’t too surprising. Like I said, it comes down to a matter of credibility.

            1. No, it was lying to the VP. The coworker was playing dumb (she had been a sergeant in the army, and I suspect was using a technique honed by years of experience to minimize the damage of military discipline). The boss wasn’t angry. He announced to everyone that lying to him about anything, no matter how small, would get you canned. Period. Because he had to trust that what we said to him was always the truth.

              It was awkward in that it was my work-wife. So when she came to my crying, I had a drink with her and told her in sympathetic terms how seriously she had fucked up. Not fun.

        2. Behaviors that would get you kicked to the curb faster than you can raise your hand on Wall Street are commonplace in the entertainment industry.

          Yep, which is why hollywood always portrays businessmen and investors, especially on wall street, as scum bags – it’s pure projection and deflection.

          1. I’m not 100% sure its projection. My sense of it is that people in show business have an incredibly skewed vision of what business actually is. The business they know is this incredibly corrupt industry where behaviors that would never be tolerated anywhere else are treated as copacetic. It never occurs to them that the problem is with their industry and not business in general.

    3. Well, to be fair, how interesting would a movie about a guy spending all night to prepare a PowerPoint deck, assign comps or decompose a company’s financial statements be?

    4. A movie about a honest and reasonable hard-working guy would be kind of boring.

  5. We’re not getting any Morning Links today, what with Christmas Eve being a paid holiday inside the D.C. Capital Beltway and all, are we?

    1. I swear this comment wasn’t here when I started typing up mine!

      1. Great minds think alike.

    2. Not to mention, this is prime cocktail party season.

  6. I presume there’s not going to be a Morning Links becuase H&R thinks Christmas Eve should be a holiday? 🙁

  7. No links? Damn Reason people like must have like, real lives, and families and shit.

  8. Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

    “I just think it’s ridiculous, frankly,” British home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair told the BBC. “He’s been dead these many years so what’s the point? It’s a silly nonsense.”

    RIP, Dr. Turing.

    1. Any time the word “royal” is invoked, silly nonsense is sure to follow.

    2. Wow, he was chemically castrated for being gay? In 1952?! 20th century Europe was unbelievably fucked up.

      1. Just the 20th? In the 21st Italian geologists are prosecuted for incorrect predictions of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Russians want to put homosexuals in ovens. In the UK belief in ghosts is commonplace.

      2. Yes, within living memory. In one of the more enlightened countries. And American views on homosexuality at the time were not much different.

  9. OK, we all know that orphans working mines don’t get holiday time. Where are the damn links?

  10. Obama signs order raising pay for civilian federal workers in 2014.

    So, pension cuts for military retirees, immediately followed by pay increases for the civilians. Yeah, that’s completely and totally fair.

    1. So Banana Republic Dictator Wannabe rewards his friends and punishes his enemies. What a class act.

    2. and still nothing left to cut.

  11. OK, since this is the designated substitute thread for AM links, I’ll leave this here: Merry Christmas to everyone. Whether it’s a religious holiday, a family gathering or just a day you get to sleep late have a great holiday.

    1. It looks like the AM links thread has moved, but anyway Merry Christmas to you too!

      1. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! May 2014 bring ever more sturdy orphans into your mines and dungeons!

  12. I’m not going to watch that stoopid movie. I’d rather watch paint dry.

  13. you had me at dwarf tossing.

  14. If Kurt Loder is surprised at the drug use, then clearly he never saw Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.

    “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.”

  15. uptil I saw the draft for $8854, I accept …that…my brother was like realie earning money in their spare time online.. there brothers friend haz done this 4 only about seven months and recently paid for the depts on there home and bought a gorgeous volvo. see page

  16. That’s interesting.
    Also obd2life is a good obd2 supplier.

    There it is! Right there in the movie! I’m there all the time!


  18. The Wolf of Wall Street is a new movie about wall street and stock-market . Leonardo DiCaprio has performaned very well and worked hard at the center of the film

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