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The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's comedy is a cautionary tale that insists on having a wild time

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Martin Scorsese's comedy The Wolf of Wall Street ostensibly details the rise and fall of real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), but it's a cautionary tale that like its coked-up protagonist insists on having a wild time right up until the last scene.

Belfort got rich pitching dubious penny stocks in the late '80s, before going not-quite-legit on Wall Street and really raking in the mega-bucks. Oh, to be young, insanely rich, powered by primo drugs and with no pesky moral compunction about skirting the law. Wolf is the American Dream in satirical hyperdrive — at one point, Belfort describes his firm to his employees as an "Ellis Island" gateway to wealth. It's all manically elucidated by its bullshit-spewing golden boy, who treats our prevailing myth with both useful cynicism and fervent belief.

DiCaprio delivers a freewheeling but focused performance as Belfort, with solid support from Jonah Hill as his partner. The new-and-improved sleazy Matthew McConaughey steals another scene as Belfort's first tutor, and Rob Reiner has a moment regarding anger issues.

It's non-stop cash, cars, hookers and blow: It's meant to be appalling — excess with a capital XXX — but also amusing (with plenty of laugh-out-loud comedy) and vicariously exhilarating. We understand this is all wrongwrongwrong (and you gotta root for the FBI agent when he's played by Kyle Chandler), but man, is this a heady blast. You'll root for Belfort's downfall, not because he deserves it (he does) or because you need the narrative closure, but because this vicarious three-hour ride is simply exhausting. Go big, or stay home.

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