Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (Rhoades)

DiCaprio and Scorsese Make “Wolf” Howl

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Got money to burn? Or to toss at suspicious FBI agents? Well, you would have it to flaunt if you’d made $48 million in one year alone.

But Jordan Belfort was disappointed. He’d been aiming for $50 million with his all financial shenanigans.

Nicknamed the Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort went to prison for manipulating the stock market. Leonardo DiCaprio plays him larger than life in a movie aptly titled “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Also on hand for this Gatsbyesque excursion into the world of high finance is Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, and Spike Jonze.

Directed by Martin Scorsese (he’s fond of directing DiCaprio), this is a film about excess -- sex, profanity, money, and drugs. And at nearly three hours in length, it lives up to that promise of overabundance. Heck, you get much of the promised sex, profanity, money, and drugs in the first five minutes.

This film -- now playing at the Tropic Cinema -- is as different from Scorsese’s sweet sentimental “Hugo” as you could imagine. You’ll see more kinship with Scorsese’s bad boys in “Goodfellas.”

Based on Jordan Belfort’s tell-all memoir, “The Wolf of Wall Street” chronicles his rise and fall as the head of a brokerage house called Stratton Oakmont. He founded it when only in his twenties. “The book personified America’s addiction to obtaining wealth at all costs, and that hasn’t changed,” says Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Long Island boiler room swindled small investors out of roughly $100 million. In 1998, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering, but after cooperating with the FBI he served only 22 months in prison.

The ’90s was a heyday of cheap money, junk bonds, drugs, sex, and parties. “He was a small fish in a gigantic pond, and he’d motivate his guys by telling them they were heroes for taking on the big houses,” explains DiCaprio. “Unregulated Wall Street was like the Wild West.”

Scorsese weighs in: “Jordan was a brilliant guy in a world where there may be no morality ­- whatsoever.”

How far does the movie go? There are in fact little people in the movie, but no actual “dwarf tossing.” And there’s a chimpanzee, but producers deny the Friends of Animals claim that the chimp “suffered irreversible psychological damage” after being forced to roller skate through an office in a collared shirt and slacks. The movie also features dogs, a lion, and a fish. And yes there are lots of naked women, but Scorsese agreed to trim certain nudity and sex scenes in order to avoid the dread NC-17 rating. Now it’s just a solid R.

Despite the guaranteed box office draw of both Scorsese and DiCaprio, several studios turned the film down. But Leonardo was determined. When his schedule opened up, he suggested they give it another try. “I told Marty, ‘I don’t think we’ll be able to do a movie like this too many times in the future,’” says DiCaprio. “Larger-scale, R-rated dramas, like ‘Blood Diamond’ or ‘The Departed,’ don’t really get financed anymore.”

An independent production company called Red Granite Pictures stepped in to finance this film, with Paramount distributing.

“It certainly couldn’t be more politically incorrect or chauvinistic,” says co-stare Jonah Hill. “People who are weak, or perceived as weak and emotional, are fed to the wolves.”

Did we mention it’s a comedy? Well, a black comedy.


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