Review: The Wolf Of Wall Street – 3/5

 Director:  Martin Scorsese

Certificate: 18

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, John Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, Christine Ebersole

Running Time: 180 min

Plot: Stock broker CEO Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) had it all; mansions, yachts, helicopters, an outrageous number of drug addictions… Eventually the FBI brought him down, and during a two year prison sentence he penned the story of his life; thus a film is born. The Rockerfeller Center is a symbol of capitalism in New York…this film is also in New York…and it’s directed by Scorsese… GoodRockerfellas, anyone? No one?

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Oliver Stone’s Wall Street  was an internationally successful expose’ on the moral cesspit of New York’s stock exchange. Most people were appalled by the greed and debauchery of that privileged few, who were abusing the trust of a nation and fleecing the economy for all it was worth. Ironically, having seen Michael Douglas’ reptilian portrayal of Wall Street player Gordon Gekko, a small minority of power-hungry men charged straight for the bronze bull and up the stock broking ladder, redefining the meaning of excess in the process. One of them was Jordan Belfort aka ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, a man who made roughly 50million a year and who once allegedly had sex with 20 prostitutes in one night. This film is about him.

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The Wolf of Wall Street  is over three hours long. Yes, it may be an impeccably stylish display of directorial skill, but the limited story arc seriously creaks as it struggles to support the hefty 180 minute running time. Though never dull, The Wolf   is overbearing at times; set to an ill-fitting track list and featuring more ‘T n A’ than Jonah Hill can shake a dic- sorry, *stick* at, the sheer superficiality of it all will wear away at you away you, sure as the tide. Like a foul mouthed, drugged up tide.

Of all Martin Scorsese’s films, The Wolf   is most in line with Goodfellas, and the old school mafia methods have been updated to fit a new brand of elite- yuppie criminality; Instead of whacking a guy, they fire him before deriding his choice of clothing. Tapping ‘enter, delete, enter, delete’ on the incriminating files is the corporate equivalent of flushing the coke down the toilet. Guns are out – now, the crime lord handles his business from the end of a phone. At times, Scorsese flirts with the kind of sumptuous satire that made Mary Harron’s American Psycho so great, but the script is largely as inane as the film’s central characters.

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Scorsese may have outdone himself this time in terms of casting talent, but like the live goldfish eaten by Belfort’s second in command, it’s slightly more than he can chew. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a physical tour de force; he reveals a long hidden talent for ‘popper’ dancing and channels Chaplin during an outstanding display of slapstick. It’s just a shame that protagonist Jordan Belfort is such a smugly detestable scumbag, and it’s impossible to get behind his cause at any point during the film. Margot Robbie does well in her first big role as the home wrecker turned wife Naomi Lapagalia, but the unexpected presence of Joanna Lumley is better still.  Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff is affable at first but eventually becomes the fall guy for fat jokes. As Belfort’s right hand man he goes through several reincarnations, with his initially raspy voice and wry sense of humour all but gone by the end. With such a huge roster, some of the supporting actors struggle to get a word in, but an enthralling Matthew McConaughey is the veritable show stealer. Sadly, his chest- thumping, fast- talking broker gets just two scenes in which to work his magic.

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In interview, Jordan Belfort has referred to his hedonistic history not in terms of it’s morality (or lack thereof) but just whether or not it was legal. In Belfort’s estimation, only 5 percent of Stratton Oakmont’s profit was illegal, therefore only 5 percent of his actions were wrong. The self-made, then unmade, then re-made man clearly feels he’s paid for his past, literally and symbolically, but the derision of his ‘meathead’ mentality suggests that Scorsese doesn’t agree. The Wolf of Wall Street   is not a celebration of excess but a warning about the unavoidable pitfalls therein. Unfortunately, it takes far too long to say it’s relatively straightforward piece.

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2 comments

  1. Good review Tom. It does take a lot to get into and stick around with, but at the end, it all feels deserved.

    1. Thanks Dan, appreciate your reading it. By the way, I’m impressed with your daily postings, I’m trying to get that level of consistency with my blog.

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