The Wolf of Wall Street Review

Posted: December 29, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

WolfofWallStreetNewposterNovrlsfull1Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Even among the greatest filmmakers, Martin Scorsese is a rare breed. Being able to produce a string of great films is impressive enough, but to consistently be able to produce impressive work over a multi-decade spanning career is something else. From the moment Mean Streets was released in 1973, Scorsese has always been at the forefront of first rate cinema. That’s not to say every film he’s made is a masterpiece or that he hasn’t made missteps, but Scorsese has never had a dry spell and makes truly awesome films at a fairly frequent rate. In the last fifteen years, most of Scorsese’s films haven’t been true passion projects the same way some of his earlier works were, but in that time he’s devoted himself to becoming one of the top-notch craftsman in the business. Because of this, every Scorsese film is something to look forward to. Scorsese’s name alone is enough to make a film worth seeing, and as an added bonus Marty’s newest film The Wolf of Wall Street had a lot of other things going for it. It marked Scorsese reuniting with his modern muse Leonardo DiCaprio, an intriguing supporting cast, great trailers, and a vibe which seemed to be echoing one of Scorsese’s best films: Goodfellas. Needless to say, The Wolf of Wall Street has been one of my most anticipated films of the year.

The film opens with Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), an extremely wealthy stockbroker indulging in the excess of materialism, of sex, and drugs. Jordan came to Wall Street as a young man and early on learned his only goal is making himself money, not the client. He begins a form of fraud where he would sale large quantities of almost useless stock to investors. He finds success and soon he and best friend Donny Azmoff (Jonah Hill) form a stock broking company called Stratton Oakmont specializing in the aforementioned fraud. Despite an unqualified staff and an unorthodox work place (i.e. copious drugs and sex at work) Stratton becomes highly successful and soon begins to venture further into more illegal activity. Stratton begins to make even more money and Jordan seems to have a never ending supply which he uses to make life a party both on work hours and off. However is loud antics and illegal doings with Stratton begin to attract attention from FBI, particularly agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).

Many have been quick to point out similarities between this film and Goodfellas, and to be fair there are a lot. Both films depict the true story of the rise and fall of a criminal, both open with a scene midway through the film to grab viewers’ attention, both feature narration, both protagonists directly address the camera, and both films feature lots of drugs and profanity. There are also certain parallels between Henry Hill’s life and Jordan Belfort’s. However I don’t think these similarities are a problem, firstly because both stories actually occurred, but more importantly because while the two films are similar in many ways, their tones are very different. Goodfellas may have some funny moments and eccentric characters, but as a whole the movie played it straight. The Wolf of Wall Street on the other hand is essentially a wacky comedy. A dark, wacky comedy, but a wacky comedy all the same. Jordan’s antics are absurd and unbelievable that instead of downplaying them, Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter have instead embraced the absurdity of the man’s life and amplified it to the fullest. This is definitely a film that’s playing for laughs and I found it hysterical. The writing is very sharp and funny and Scorsese keeps a very good comedic pace. There’s a particularly hilarious set-piece late in the film where Jordan and Donny have an intense trip on older quaaludes. I should say, while I found the film hysterical, not everyone will. This a dark comedy after all so for some people the jokes will go too far.

A lot of the comedy also comes from the cast. DiCaprio’s lead performance as Jordan Belfort is very funny. DiCaprio brings the appropriate charisma to the part but the real treat comes in watching him just unleash as an actor. Jordan is a larger than life character who embraces life to the fullest in his own excessive way. It’s a big role that allows DiCaprio to go to the extreme and it’s a lot of fun to watch. DiCaprio also proves himself quite capable as a comedic actor in ways he hasn’t shown before. It’s a scene chewing performance, but it’s perfectly appropriate for this type of film. Jonah Hill is just as good as the bizarre Donny Azmoff. The fact that Jonah Hill can be funny is not surprising, but what is impressive is how completely Hill immerses himself in the role. I’ve always liked Jonah Hill, but this performance is a revelation for me. The rest of the cast is filled out with a plethora of recognizable faces like Matthew McConaugey, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, and Jean Dujardin, just to name a few. I also really liked newcomer Margot Robbie as Jordan’s wife. It really is a great cast and every actor gives a solid performance.

Of course, Scorsese’s direction is excellent. Prior to The Wolf of Wall Street, the only true comedy Scorsese had made was After Hours, a film I like but don’t find particularly funny. However, with Wolf Scorsese proves himself quite apt for comedy. His rhythms and style actually lend themselves quite well to the genre. He and long-time editor Thelma Schoomaker give the film a very fast pace which constantly keeps the energy going. Despite running three hours and spanning almost a decade, The Wolf of Wall Street is constantly engaging and fun. There’s also some good visual comedy through Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s shot selection, as well as some clever uses of slow motion and tracking shots. Scorsese isn’t exactly breaking new ground stylistically, but he is pushing his style in extreme and interesting ways. Credit is also deserved to Terence Winter for his script which is clever, funny, and tight. He also touches on some interesting themes, particularly the way money is worshipped, capitalism, and the American dream, themes which Scorsese engages with as well. I don’t want to say too much about the film thematically, in part because I want viewers to discover things for themselves but also because I was so busy being entertained by the film I didn’t dwell on themes as much as I’m sure I will on repeat viewings.

There are things I could nitpick about The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a story that probably doesn’t need to be three hours and many of Scorsese’s accomplishments are things he’s accomplished before. But I’m not going to make these complaints because the fact is The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best and most entertaining films of the year. Acting, writing, and direction are all top notch. The film is funny but also thought provoking and succeeds in all of its goals. There’s just something about the way Scorsese makes movies and The Wolf of Wall Street confirms Scorsese is still the man. To paraphrase the film, they’re gonna need the National Guard or a fucking S.W.A.T team to take Scorsese out, cause he ain’t going nowhere!

A+

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. I had a wonderful time with this movie, even despite the three-hour time-limit being a bit lengthy. That said, I got by it and just had a blast.

  2. it’s interesting that you didn’t mention your critiques of the movie but that you think it’s one of the best of the year. i hope to like it too.

  3. […] PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews review Cinematic review Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews review […]

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