Guest Blog: The Wolf of Wall Street Review
Very few films lasting 3 or more hours can successfully hold the viewer's undivided attention without ever tempting them to check their watches. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best examples.
Based on a true story, the film follows Long Island stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he rises up through the shady, corrupt world of Wall Street with the creation of the corrupt brokerage firm Stratton-Oakmont, raking in big, BIG bucks through scamming clients into investing in lousy penny-stock companies. As the dough rolls in, so do the drugs, sex, and debauchery that all make their way into the office. But soon Belfort attracts unwanted attention from the FBI, and despite his elaborate, calculated efforts to cover his tracks, he ultimately becomes a victim of his own hubris.
Wolf is a no-holds barred 'rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags' tale that consistently basks in the excess and indulgence of it's main character, and does so to great effect. For all the energy, upbeat attitude, and overall wackiness of the antics of Belfort and his disciples, while the film stages it all like an insane party that we are compelled to join, at the same time, we question if we really ought to be feeling that way. Wolf makes the fun and ignorant bliss of these antics overshadow their true, illegal and immoral nature, but just enough for us to be remain properly engaged in Belfort's story without being immediately driven to shun him for the overindulgent crook he truly is, making for an all-the-more-effective final act as this dark side dominates the scene, and brings everything crashing down for almost everyone.
Half of the work there is found in DiCaprio's Oscar-nominated performance as Belfort. It's a well-tread archetype: the greedy corporate mogul with dollar signs in his eyes. DiCaprio captures that level of shadiness, indulgence, and almost complete disregard for morality, and simultaneously balances it with his growth (or rather, de-evolution) from a simple penny-stock broker searching for success on Wall Street, to a top-dog tycoon who is swallowed up by Wall Street's inherent nature. We almost want to root for him to get away with his trickery, but at just the right moments, we're cued to essentially hope he gets his comeuppance once he goes too far for us to let it slide.
Accompanying him is a uproarious ensemble cast featuring the consistently hilarious Jonah Hill as Belfort's right-hand man Donnie Azoff. Matthew McConaughey, though he gets 3rd billing, only briefly appears early on, but he steals the show every second he's onscreen. Margot Robbie makes her breakout performance as Naomi, delivering a great balance of sexy and intimidating. Also featured throughout are Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, and Ken Jeong, all of whom provide their share of funny moments.
Wolf 's style has been gleefully replicated in the years since it's release: an energetic, 'are-you-sitting-down?' chronicle of the excitement and adrenaline one would hope to find in a high-risk venture, rattling off enough statistics and side details until the movie itself can stop and ask, "Are you getting all this?", and quite frankly, whether or not we are is not of much concern to it. Films such as War Dogs and The Big Short clearly try to follow in its footsteps, but Wolf masters it with just the right balance of funny, dramatic, tense, and shocking to make the whole 3-hour runtime worth every second. Aiding in all of this is Martin Scorsese's signature adoration of New York and it's culture (ups and downs and all), Terence Winter's fantastic script brought to further life by the actor's freedom to improv and play off of one another. The plethora of nudity, drug use, and the highest ever f-bomb count in any narrative film, while all potentially turnoffs to some, definitely help in preventing a single dull moment.
Wolf throws us straight into the action and never lets up. Insanely quotable, consistently hilarious, brilliantly acted, carefully scripted and paced, and downright unforgettable, The Wolf of Wall Street is a nonstop joyride that never gets old with the second viewing, or the third, and so on and so on.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Patrick
Twitter : @JeffMovieMan
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