The Wolf of Wall Street Review

Posted: January 15, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

Emerging from the comedic haze of booze, drugs and naked women that is director Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street, here’s what I took away: greed is good.  Oh, wait — wrong movie.  Though, Gordon Gecko’s ideal doesn’t seem too far off from Jordan Belfort’s when all is said and done.  The thing to really take away from this film is that people who work on Wall Street are a bunch of greedy assholes with no moral compass.  And it’s not a subtle message, either, because Scorsese keeps saying it every five minutes throughout this movie.  Seeing as The Wolf of Wall Street is three hours long, though, that’s a lot of five minutes, entertaining though they may be.

The film is the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), the “wolf” of the title, who learns to make his way in the business by being one of the slimiest S.O.B.’s in existence.  He’s told that that the true goal of a Wall Street stockbroker is to make himself money, rather than his clients — which Jordan does with particular gusto.  His modus operandi is to sell large quantities of virtually useless stock to investors as he in turn gets rich, rich, rich.  Jordan’s innumerable wealth attracts the interest of Donny Azmoff (Jonah Hill), a young man with blinding-white teeth and a hunger for money as strong as Jordan’s.  Together, the pair co-found Stratton Oakmont, a stock broking company specializing in making money through the method that Jordan has perfected.  They also specialize in filling each and every work day with as much debauchery as they can; the only thing missing from the never-ending cacophony of sex and drugs is rock ‘n roll.  Of course, such illicit and illegal behavior soon attracts the attention of the FBI, as represented by Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who vows to do everything possible to pull the plug on Jordan’s rock star-like lifestyle.

I consider Martin Scorsese to be my favorite director of all-time, so it sort of pains me to say that The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t really the masterpiece so many others have been claiming it to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s really good — it’s pretty much impossible for me NOT to recommend this movie — but it’s sort of frustrating because I really did want to LOVE it.  Why can’t I?  Well, let me put it this way: overall, it’s comparable to being the designated driver at a party where all your friends are getting stinking wasted out of their minds. They’re the ones having the best time, and while you’re entertained at first by how ridiculous they’re all acting, your amusement at their antics slowly starts to wane until you eventually start thinking, “Oh, God, I have to spend more time with these guys after the party.”  And then the more you urge them to come home already, they keep finding something else to do, and before you know it, it’s 3 a.m. and now it’s a question of, “Shouldn’t they be passed out by now?”

To be sure, though, the direction and acting on display in The Wolf of Wall Street are first-rate.  Then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Martin Scorsese film.  As Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio is the craziest and funniest we’ve ever seen him be, all while reaffirming why he’s one of the best actors around today.  This is a most invigorating performance from him, as well as uncharted territory.  We’ve never seen DiCaprio in a straight-up comedic role, so for him to hit it out of the park with his first one is truly impressive.  He has numerous one-liners and bouts of physical comedy amidst such a scenery-chewing performance, and DiCaprio just nails it in one scene after the other.  Jonah Hill, by comparison, feels right at home in all this wackiness, and he’s able to get laughs with a similar ease.  Whenever the two of them share the screen, it makes for some hilarious stuff, especially when the characters have to deal with some unexpected aftereffects of one of the countless brands of drugs they take.  Other seasoned actors such as Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin show up in small supporting parts, and each of them leaves just as strong of an impression as the main stars.

This is a very funny film when all is said and done — mostly in the dark humor variety — something that’s further emphasized by how Martin Scorsese directs this whole thing.  I agree with others who’ve said that the use of Scorsese’s usual techniques to comedic effect here really works.  Through the use of slow motion, tracking shots and the like, everything in this movie that’s already funny and ridiculous is made even more so when Scorsese employs those tricks.  The Wolf of Wall Street is bursting at the seams with style, all of it used to entertaining effect.  However, I personally found that tour-de-force feeling to also take away from the film in some instances.

Hear me out, hear me out.  To start with, this film is far too long.  Scorsese and DiCaprio have gone on record saying this movie needed to be 3 hours to best represent Jordan Belfort. Well, by the 2-hour mark — hell, even from the opening montage, I got a clear picture of the guy.  And that picture is of a man who doesn’t exactly make for the most pleasant company for an extended period of time.  Plus, for as much as we see Belfort indulging in all of this debauchery (and again, there’s A LOT of it), we never get a clear sense of his motivation, or the motivations of any of his associates.  So by the time they’re getting drunk and/or high on a variety of drugs for the hundredth time, it all starts getting a bit tedious.  And that ties back into what I was getting at about the exhaustive nature of the film’s style: spending time at crazy party after crazy party with these guys becomes a taxing experience.  As the film shows, such a lifestyle is a piece of cake if you remain intoxicated to the max, but it’s tiring if you’re sober.  In addition, so many of Scorsese’s best characters have been guys who’ve done unlikable things, but still had humanity in them. With Jordan Belfort, I seldom saw any redeeming qualities to get me to care about him or his dilemmas.

But for me to say that The Wolf of Wall Street is anything less than very good, even with my problems, would be a crime.  While it won’t be making an appearance on my list of The Best Movies of 2013, The Wolf of Wall Street is nonetheless a strong piece of filmmaking with more than enough sheer exuberance to get by.  I’ll still take “very good Scorsese” any day of the week.

***1/2 /****

  1. brikhaus says:

    It looks like Leo is about to deep throat that microphone.

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