Movie Review: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ or how a movie scammed me

Photo by: Mary Cybulski

Photo by: Mary Cybulski

Posted by Silas Valentino on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 5:00 pm.

**Spoiler Warning**

The credits began to roll and I left the theatre feeling as if I had been swindled, similar to how an eager, low-level investor feels after watching their penny stocks fluctuate only to ultimately disappear. The Wolf of Wall Street played me and I lost a movie ticket and three hours — but that’s the point. And that’s why this film is something short of brilliant.

If you plan on seeing it, I’d advise you to stop reading right about now and return later. The best part of the film is the last few seconds and I don’t want to ruin anything, though it’s not like there’s a twist ending where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordan Belfort ends up being a woman or that Severus Snape was good all along. This is the kind of ending that requires hours of waiting and in the last moment before the credits appear you see that it all makes sense.

“Do you know what a fugazi is?” Matthew McConaughey’s character asks an innocent Belfort as the film begins. “Fufazi, fugazi. It’s a wazi, it’s a woozi — fairy dust.” McConaughey explains that in this game of stock exchange, the broker’s goal is to keep their client on a financial carrousel for as long as you can. Fool them into thinking they’re winning when in fact the broker is gaining loads of money in commissions. Right there in the Kanye-charged trailer is The Wolf of Wall Street. This film is a cinematic stock exchange scam where the viewer sits through three hours of flashy, colorful sights only to realize in the end that the movie was just a ploy set on taking your money and time and if you let it, your cinematic dignity. Way to go, Martin Scorsese you old-timer.

The Wolf of Wall Street has little or no character arc and few Raging Bull, Goodfellas cinematography scene stealers. The movie, in and of itself, is about getting people to buy things they don’t need due to false expectations and then dancing with the profits — which is exactly what Jordan Belfort does with stocks. The Wolf of Wall Street breaks the fourth wall and it too scams its investor.

But instead of feeling like I’ve had some sneak in my cookie jar, I give praise to the film. It reminds me of Modest Mouse’s hit “Float On,” when it says, “Well, a fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam/ It was worth it just to learn from sleight-of-hand.”

The context of the story is very simple, it’s three hours of eye candy. I saw enough naked women that after awhile it wasn’t awkward sitting next to my dad and there was so much cocaine and Quaalude abuse that Pope Francis might even consider a dabble. Every 15 minutes an exciting sequence would occur that would make you forget that your butt hurts and that it’s time for the film to end. The one true moment of the film happens when Belfort is explaining to the camera how a company can go public through an IPO but then stops suddenly and says that we (the audience) aren’t interested in things like that and whisks us back to a story of debauchery. Jonah Hill is a great comic relief but I’m sure the actual Danny Porush, the character in which Hill portrays, is pissed that Judd Apatow’s fat guy plays him.

Investors are just pawns used to spin the carrousel and after an elongated ride the story concludes with Belfort conducting a Get-Rich seminar in New Zealand. He goes around the audience and asks attendees to “sell him this pen.” One-by-one he asks the classic seller’s question until the camera pans up showing the audience entranced by the wolf’s technique. Their faces are stoic and stupefied, just like everyone’s in my theatre. One dude next to me even let out a Eureka- moment “oohh” capping the experience. He was played, I was played and the winner is The Wolf of Wall Street.

Follow Silas Valentino on Twitter @SilasValentino

  • Silas the Square Bear

    I second that, Silas you are a square bear and you will NOT be writing for the NY Times in this lifetime. Maybe it’s time for a career change. He just got punked by the one of the most brilliant filmmakers of our time, Scorsese. And the loser is Silas Valentino.

  • Rdazzles

    I agree with you Silas.

  • Danielle Harpy

    This terrible movie was like watching 5 beer commercials repeated for 3 hours (that seemed like 6 hours): superficial, boring, unfunny, misogynistic frat boy humor with no character or thematic development. It was a torturous waste of time.

  • ZP Pierce

    You are very wrong my friend. You are wrong from an existential standpoint as well as a cinematic placeholder. Everyone here is falling into the trap that it was somehow brilliant that the audience is scammed and misled by great talents like Scorsese and the fast fading DiCaprio, who is one of my favorite actors. However, he has a string of several stinkers that have occurred in a row and trapped forever on celluloid. As a 35 year old investment advisor, which is the term now used to describe a stockbroker, I can tell you that I get no joy from watching this masquerade. Even though the themes are somewhat relevant and true to a point, the main theme that every investment is a scam purely existing to string the client along as if they were on crack, much like Messers Hill and DiCaprio found in the phone booth early on in the picture. I was very encouraged and much amused at the first few scenes of DeCaprio and Matthew McConaughey. However, that is the high point of the movie. If the in tent in this film was to show the art of the scam and the glorious decadence that follows those who perpetuate them, then it was already summed up in that first scene. The rest of the movie is a farce. Tossing midgets onto spinning wheels, the almost Harlem Shake like movements of the camera when showing progressions in the movie and strictly speaking, from someone who loves his share of swearing and dropping F bombs, the use of foul language detracts from the film in any regard. This was a stinker. And I had such high hopes. Wow, I guess just like a pink sheets in investor. how clever! Not!

  • ZP Pierce

    You’ve been told that this movie is “brilliant” and that is why you think it is. Unless, you can describe the brilliance, or rather, the subtle brilliance, please do us all a favor and articulate it. Please do it without just restating what the reviewer wrote. This movie was right in my wheelhouse, being 1) a Scorcese and Dicaprio fan 2) a 34 year old investment advisor (aka stockbroker) and 3) an appreciator of art and unique forms of expression. I’m a guitar player, but I love Miles Davis modal jazz period just as much as I enjoy Eric Clapton wailing away on almost anything. So, this film had all of the prerequisites for total bliss, but I came away with nothing other than remembering that gimmicks can be used to mask any turd

    • hipsterseverywhere

      I wouldnt say it was “brilliant”, but I thought it was the best movie I have seen in a long time. No one told me it was brilliant, I didnt even hear about it until my family said they were going to go see it that night- I actually came into the theater with low expectations. I liked it because it was funny- it entertained me. I enjoyed the story line. I don’t really give two f**ks if it wasn’t “subtly genius”, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Don’t be a hipster f*ck, and stop taking yourself so seriously. Not everything has to be a “subtly genius” symbolic art film. It was a black comedy loosely based on a real story, can you not just appreciate it for that?

  • smallzy22

    This movie, for me, was pure entertainment. Yes, there is a lot of drug
    use, sex and a lot of explentives, but I didn’t care one bit because it
    was, after all, a biography about a guy (based on his memoirs) who was drug addict, sex fiend, corrupt stock broker etc. Obviously, this wasn’t a biography about a librarian who collected baseball cards in his spare time etc. If you’re looking for high art, go see an
    indie or period piece film. If you’re looking for entertainment, big
    laughs and just a good time at the movies, go see Wolf of Wall Street. For those complaining about the excessive explentives, sex, drugs etc-You clearly haven’t seen Goodfellas, Casino or probably any of Scorsese’s movies. I mean, HELLO! Some people are just prudes and should try to get a grip. IT’S JUST A MOVIE!

  • Robert I. Fleck

    When somebody preaches against violence by beating you to death, you might get the impression he’s its fan. And so it is with Martin Scorsese, icon of the industry in his bespoke tuxedo, gracing the award circuit, hero director. We were in this for three hours. He is in each project for three years having become the legit movie biz top purveyor of vulgarity in the name of making a point. Imagine what is turning over in his mind those three years. I am glad I am not he, absorbed with how many unnecessarily graphic ways to kill people or, better still, demean women or assault our ears where all his abuses highlight his complete and utter lack of taste, restraint, sensitivity or, God forbid, subtlety. Everything is always needlessly over the top. Doesn’t anyone get embarrassed anymore? Of course its all REAL. He is always telling the story of somebody who purports to have done this stuff, or something like it, so he’s off the hook. He didn’t make it up. He’s just telling a story. What a sweetheart. This time I didn’t wait for his moral message. I was so sick of his shameless vulgarity I walked out. I don’t need to be beaten to death. I don’t need Martin Scorsese.