Monday, December 30, 2013


The latest film from legendary director Martin Scorsese can easily be compared to a roller-coaster ride. It is an endless assault on the senses with thrills and laughs and a literal bombardment of lights and sounds while flipping and tossing the viewer in every conceivable direction with no mercy. Its presentation is a mirror for the world of over-the-top excess, and it is unlikely that there was any other way to tell the story of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Based on a true story, New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his business partner Donnie (Jonah Hill) strike it rich with their brokerage firm by trading corrupt stocks, which leads to a life of excessive drugs, hookers, mansions, and yachts. Their millions catch the attention of FBI Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler), who sets out to build a case against them.

The story of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a tough sell as there is very little plot involving main characters who are two of the most despicable human beings ever put to film. Jordan and Donnie make their millions by ripping off middle-class Americans, and they reward themselves by cheating on their wives and snorting cocaine off the naked asses of high-priced hookers. The film doesn’t bother to give the main characters any sort of arc; there is nothing for them to do or strive towards, and the eventual showdown with the antagonist of the film (FBI) is almost treated like an afterthought. 

The idea seems to be to teach us about the pitfalls of overabundance and greed, and for the most part…it works. Martin Scorsese takes us to school in a highly energetic film which doesn’t lag or get dull for one second. The editing is furious, the camera is always in neat places, the music is like a steroid and the performances are electric. We don’t really root for or connect with the scumbag characters, but we simply cannot get enough of them as they playground their way through the American and off-shore financial world.

Scorsese isn’t shy about teaching us the dangers of excess, as his picture is often filled with naked people who are always having sex or smoking or snorting or swallowing something. The full-frontals and what they do with them push the limits of an R-rated film, and Scorsese will be lucky if he doesn’t get a label as a dirty-old-man. But again, it’s a film about excess…and while all the boobs and butts we see may feel awkward after the 500th time, it’s part of a story that actually happened and Scorsese clearly isn’t about to shy away from it. As snappy as most of the editing is, the film feels like it could have been tighter. A lot of scenes ramble on for way too long and things start to feel redundant; as fun as roller-coasters are, there are reasons why they have time limits.

True to the nature of the film, performances are injected with enough rocket fuel to send everyone over the moon and back. Leonardo DiCaprio has never chewed the scenery like this before, so much that he often feels like a Muppet or a cartoon. DiCaprio does some serious physical work here too, a lot of which is hard to watch. Jonah Hill turns in his best performance ever and has a wow-factor every time he is on-screen. Matthew McConaughey’s involvement is great, but is basically an extended cameo, and Kyle Chandler is solid as always. The sexy and beautiful Margot Robbie does great work as Belfort’s wife and has great chemistry with DiCaprio, and Rob Reiner is dazzling and hilarious as his father.

Looking back on his storied career, Scorsese has probably never been this relentless or bold in his storytelling, and one’s enjoyment of the film depends on how tolerant they are of the unabashed approach. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET may be offensive with questionable morals, but it is immensely effective.


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