THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – The Review
Martin Scorsese’s stylish tale of the drug and sex-fueled rise and fall of a crooked Wall Street banker is a smashing return to form for the director. Hands down the best of the five Scorsese/ Leo DeCaprio collaborations so far, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is long but its fast-moving storyline and surprisingly robust humor make its three hours zip by. A true story, WOLF is based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort (DeCaprio), a man who went from financial struggle to one of the most wealthy but immoral and corrupt stockbrokers on Wall Street. Belfort’s mentored into the business by a chest-beating Wall Street slickster (Matthew McConaughey in a canny, one-scene role) who extolls the virtues of snorting coke as an appetizer to a 3-martini lunch. Belfort was hooked, and after having to reinvent himself following the 1987 Black Monday crash, he established the Long Island firm of Stratton Oakmont, one of the first and biggest chop shop brokerage firms in the late 1980s, illegally pumping and dumping artificially inflated stocks. Belfort made the cover of trade industry publications before he was 30, the feds spent years investigating him, and he was ultimately banned from the securities business for life. He eventually served time for fraud and money-laundering.
But that’s not what THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is really about. It’s really about all that Belfort’s money could buy him, namely sex and drugs. But mostly sex. Belfort’s more Caligula than Gordon Gecko and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a wall-to-wall cavalcade of perversion: desk sex, bathroom sex, office orgies, airplane orgies, boat orgies, gay orgies, car BJs, elevator BJs, candle wax S&M, dwarf tossing, and something with a pipe and a woman’s butt. Sensitive filmgoers may be appalled by the shameless sexism and wall-to-wall bacchanalia on display (though they can’t complain about the violence – there’s very little), and while it may not reach the Marty heights of TAXI DRIVER/RAGING BULL/GOODFELLAS, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET excites the senses in a way few film-makers even dream of. In every way — from the sets and rich dialogue to the well-portrayed characters and themes of loyalty and betrayal – THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is pure Scorsese. The camera and cutting style the director uses here is as forcefully persuasive as a line of coke, so that we are excited, if not enlightened, by the cocky camaraderie, revelry, and sense of ‘family’ on view in the Stratton Oakmont offices. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is as compelling as Scorsese’s crime dramas and, as is often true of the director’s work, it’s a masterpiece of visual composition. Employing the services of Mexican-born cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (ARGO) and trusty editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese eschews a static camera, always keeping the canvas of his film fluid. There are long pans and innovative flourishes including freeze frames, jump cuts, and Leo talking to the camera (a lot!). The epic sweep and energetic film language of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is anchored by an effortlessly expert performance from Leo DeCaprio. His Jordan Belfort is the picture of amorality, a narcissist who acquires wealth simply to feed his vulgar habits, a charismatic young man who’s never grown up. The women of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET are mostly sexual targets (there’s even a scene price-comparing hooker quality), though Margot Robbie scores some good moments as Naomi, Belfort’s greedy, scorching-hot trophy wife. Kyle Chandler gives the film welcome sobriety as Patrick Denham, the FBI agent who’s constantly a step ahead of Belfort but isn’t having much fun being there. There’s a terrifically written scene where a cocky Jordan invites the agent on his yacht (an 80-foot beauty that’s a character in itself) to test his hand and the two square off. Then there’s Jonah Hill as Belcourt’s first lieutenant Donnie Azoff. I’m not sure if Hill’s buffoonish, flamboyant Jew, whether masturbating in public or swallowing goldfish, is a brilliant comic performance or an undisciplined train wreck but he’s so fun to watch and will have people talking. A slapstick scene where Belcourt and Azoff lose their motor skills after ingesting mega-quaaludes goes on way too long (and would have been more at home in a Jim Carrey movie) and the film gets bogged down with Belcourt’s marital troubles, which aren’t nearly as compelling as the stuff going on at his work (a similar flaw with Sharon Stone slowed down the back half of CASINO, the Marty WOLF most resembles), but you can’t expect a film this dense, ambitious and long to be flawless. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is the most outrageous film of the year Scorsese’s best since GOODFELLAS.
5 of 5 Stars