According to that definitive online authority on modern lexicon, Urban Dictionary, a ‘douchebag’ is a person of the male gender who’s beyond a jerk or an asshole but not quite a fucker or motherfucker. The protagonist of Martin Scorsese’s latest film, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ fits that definition to a ‘t.’ Based on the published memoirs of Jordan Belfort, a New York stock broker whose heady rise to fortune and subsequent fall serve as a sobering lesson on the dangers of capitalist greed and excess, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘ displays both Scorsese and his frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio at the top of their form.
DiCaprio gave an Oscar-worthy performance as Jordan Belfort who, under the tutelage of mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey in a rather humorous turn), discovered that the secret of a good stock broker is not making money for your clients but "moving your clients’ money into your pocket.” And apparently, a good stock broker also parties like there's no tomorrow (often in the office), snorts copious amounts of coke and bangs lots of hookers. After the disaster of ‘Black Monday,’ Belfort took on a brief stint selling blue-collar penny stocks to schmucks at 50% commission before starting his own brokerage firm with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and some of his old dope-dealing high school buddies out of an auto repair garage (kinda like Steves Jobs and Wozniak with Apple). The rest of the tale is compelling stuff indeed, as the meteoric rise of Stratton-Oakmont came under the increasing scrutiny of the FBI and SEC.
Powerful, witty, irreverent and packed with wry humor throughout, TWOWS provides us with an interesting glimpse into stock market manipulation while entertaining us at the same time. Guided by Scorsese’s deft touch, the movie is tightly paced and never floundered even at 3 hours, which is more than you can say for DiCaprio in one hilarious scene when he and Donnie were half paralyzed by slow-acting Quaaludes. While there’s no denying that DiCaprio’s Belfort is a despicable scum-sucking scoundrel of the highest order who fleeced people of their hard-earned savings (i.e. 'moving his clients’ money into his pocket'), one must also grudgingly concede that he was simply marvelous on-screen, a personality radiating so much confidence and charisma that he can sell virtually anything to anyone, anytime. Whether he's galvanizing his peeps before a big IPO or giving a moving speech about how a single mother pursued the 'American Dream' and rose from the depths of poverty and despair, you can't help but give him your undivided attention and applause. Bravo, Leo, bravo!
Well, this makes my 50th and final review of the year. Have a safe and happy new year, everyone. Next up: American Hustle. Until next time.