The Best Films of the Decade: #25: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

| December 17, 2019
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In just 14 Days the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

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We can all say that we love Martin Scorsese when he tells a human story, but admit it, you like it when his films whoop and holler and ride in with six guns blazing.  That was the template of Goodfellas and its certainly the tone of The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie of no less moral scruples then any gangster movie that he ever made.  I mean, what can you say about a movie that opens with narration like: “The year I turned 26, as the head of my own brokerage firm, I made $49 million, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.

The Wolf of Wall Street is eerily similar to Goodfellas in many respects.  Both are biopics about an individual with voracious dreams of living an outlaw lifestyle in which the rules don’t apply and everything that he wants is readily available.  In this case, the subject is Jordan Belfort (played in a ferocious performance by Leonardo DiCaprio) a stock broker who started at the bottom but then oozed his way through the vast cornucopia of excess of the capitalist system of the 1980s.

Like Caligula, Belfort is shameless in his pursuits.  Money floats in the air and there’s a sucker born every minute and he’s always on the front lines.  This is prime territory for Scorsese who is a master of the evil that men do.  Here he’s essentially working through the gangster aesthetic but he shifts focus, instead of murder and extortion Belfort uses America’s capitalist system as a means to get to the top.  The greatness of the film is the way in which we stay with men who are repulsive and steal from hard-working people who they feel are beneath them – and Scorsese does it for three hours! They’re off-putting but you can’t resist them no matter what happens.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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