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The Wolf of Wall Street

In the 1980’s greed and fraud seemed to go hand in handd, and people like Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio) were willing to do anything to make a buck.  To make themselves beyond rich.  The Wolf of Wall Street is the story of Belfort, from his first day dialing away like a madman on the trading room floor, to insider trading, to the lowly depths of his time in prison.

Dicaprio has easily established himself as one of the premiere actors in Hollywood and he is fantastic as always here.  Oscar caliber work for sure.  Jordan Belfort is a sleaze-bag who cheats on his wife and robs the general public blind, but somehow we love the guy.  At his core he’s just a normal kid that wanted to make it rich, and he got sucked into the drug of money along the way.  He’s a great salesman, and great salesmen are irresistible.

After the financial collapse of 1987 on Black Monday, Belfort finds himself without a job and looking for anything that can help he and his wife Teresa (How I Met Your Mother’s Cristin Milloti) get by.  He finds himself trading worthless penny stocks, pulling 50% commission.  He’s a natural, and soon opens up his own boiler-room company Stratton Oakmont.  He hires some childhood buddies, along with his new right hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and the entire crew is off and running. Business is booming, and the skies the limit for Stratton Oakmont.

Belfort and company let the greed get the best of them though as they start trading illegally, and the Security and Exchange Commission begins to look into their business a little too hard.  They’re easy to pay off, it’s the feds that are not.  FBI agent Patrick Denham (everyone’s favorite coach Kyle Chandler Friday Night Lights) is a good old boy that promises to take Belfort down.

Hill is fantastic as Azoff.  He and Belfort do every kind of drug, hang with every kind of woman, drive every kind of car, party harder than any rock-star, and make more money in the process than you can possibly imagine.  They get themselves into ridiculous situation after situation, and Scorsese does what he always does best, directs every entertaining second of it.  The acting and direction are top notch as always.

The only thing that sets the film back a bit is its length.  Clocking in at 3 hours there’s a lot of filler that could have easily brought this down to around 2 1/2 hours.  There are a number of scenes that have the entire team ad-libbing with each other and they don’t really serve a purpose.  There are also a few scenes that seem to drag on and slow the movie down.  It’s a minor gripe with the film, but it does impact it overall slightly.

The Wolf of Wall Street is the epitome of greed and excess in America.  It’s not a new tale of how high one can fly and then fall, but it’s a tale that never seems to get old.  It’s like watching a car wreck over and over.  You can’t turn your eyes away from it.

Grade: A-