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Review: Leo is charismatically loathsome as 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

‘The Wolf of Wall Street'

★★★ (out of 4)

R

Wide release

By Roger Moore
Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

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. All that's missing are the victims and the outrage.

DiCaprio is Jordan Belfort, an eager-beaver young broker-in-training who takes the mesmerizing 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.”

A light goes off in idealistic Jordan's head. It's all about commissions, shady deals, getting rich because “money makes you a better person.”

But 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 proteges and followers like a revival preacher. Donnie (Jonah Hill) is the first.

That's the genius of this. The savvier Wall Street pundits noticed how brokers, traders and derivatives specialists went from making a very 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. His Jordan Belfort is a combination of Oral Roberts and Joel Osteen, pep-rallying his flock to his prosperity gospel.

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.

The otherworldly beauty Margot Robbie plays “The Duchess of Bay Ridge,” stunning but just as New York working class as any of them once she opens her “Guinea Gulch” (Italian-Brooklyn) mouth.

Three hours might not seem excessive for a satiric indictment of Wall Street ethics. But there are too many scenes that show the high-rollers' endless array of human failings and petty ambitions.

Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

 

 
 


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