Jordan Belfort makes Jay Gatsby look like a piker.
The year he turned 26, he made $49 million and was ticked off because it wasn't $52 million or a cool mil a week. Plus, Belfort is a real person, coincidentally played by Leonardo DiCaprio of "The Great Gatsby," in a Martin Scorsese movie.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler.
Rating: R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence..
"The Wolf of Wall Street" is reminiscent of the most energetic scenes in Mr. Scorsese's "GoodFellas," except that the adrenaline drip here is wide open at all times. Well, not when the Quaaludes kick in and leave the users with rubbery limbs and drooling.
The dark comedy, based on the Jordan Belfort memoir of the same name, begins by showing a glimpse of what's to come -- dwarf-tossing as unapologetic office amusement, Ferraris and other luxury cars, a sprawling Hamptons estate and a second wife who was a model and Miller Lite girl -- before spinning the story back to Jordan as an innocent 22-year-old.
A kid from Queens and the son of two accountants, he has just been hired as a "lower-than-pond scum" connector who will be dialing the phone 500 times a day at a Wall Street firm. A broker (Matthew McConaughey at his wiliest, craziest best) takes Jordan to lunch and preaches the joys of cocaine, hookers, wealth and seemingly endless fat commissions.
Jordan wants to see if greed is good but his first day as a broker is his last day at that firm. The Black Monday crash of 1987 dumps him back onto the street until he gets a job peddling penny stocks.
"I was selling garbage to garbage men and making money hand over fist," he says in the narration, and the race to the top is on. In a few years, a Forbes magazine reporter will call him a "twisted version of Robin Hood, who robs from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers."
"The Wolf of Wall Street" dramatizes his trajectory, which attracts the attention of the SEC and FBI and plays havoc with his personal life.
It's an even wilder, longer lasting ride than "American Hustle" with many more players including Jonah Hill as an impulsive neighbor turned business partner; Rob Reiner as Jordan's dad; Cristin Milioti as the first wife and Australian Margot Robbie as the second; Kyle Chandler as an FBI agent; and Jean Dujardin, Oscar winner for "The Artist," as a Swiss banker.
It's classic Scorsese: 3 hours in length with much more left in the editing suite, absolutely rated R for nudity, sex and lots of drugs, starring muse Mr. DiCaprio for a fifth time ("Gangs of New York," "The Aviator," "The Departed" which finally earned the director an overdue Oscar and "Shutter Island") and jetting along on a sassy soundtrack with tunes such as "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "Goldfinger" and "Mrs. Robinson."
"Wolf," with a screenplay by Terence Winter based on Belfort's book, dramatizes a life of such utter excess, decadence and depravity that it would make Gordon Gekko blush. This is not the movie to take Grandma to see after you've polished off the eggnog but it is masterfully made and engaging, with a fearless Mr. DiCaprio as a sort of seductive Wall Street wiseguy.
The camera never swings around to show the harm he and others are doing to the suckers whose money they swindle. But as reprehensible and dangerous as his actions are, you cannot help but root for him to howl again, just not at your financial expense.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.