Friday 7 February 2014

Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's tale of sex, drugs and debauchery is now the highest-grossing R-rated movie in Australian history - and for good reason. The Wolf of Wall Street sees Scorsese re-team with Leonardo DiCaprio for the fourth time, and whilst it ain't for the faint hearted, it will knock your socks off.

Based on a book written by the man himself, The Wolf of Wall Street is about a 90's New York stockbroker called Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio). After getting knocked back by the 1987 stock market crash, Black Monday, Belfort is driven to start his own stockbroking firm.

By cobbling together a group of misfit salespeople, Belfort, along with his friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) found Stratton Oakmont. By dealing in penny stocks and screwing over the little guys, Belfort and Stratton Oakmont soon develop a reputation as being more than a little crooked amongst the other firms on Wall Street.

As the firm grows and becomes more ambitious, it isn't long before Belfort and Azoff are under the spotlight from the FBI. With the money, coke and hookers going to their heads, things spiral further and further out of control - Belfort's marriage to his wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) falls apart, he can't get a handle on his drug habit and the prospect of jail time looms.

First off, the direction. Scorsese films are renowned for having a distinct look and feel about them, and The Wolf of Wall Street is no different. You can tell right from the off that Scorsese is holding the reins on this film, the framing and camera-work being one of the best elements of the movie. It's a film that really steps out and grabs you, perfectly encapsulating the feverish nature of the non-stop partying in Stratton Oakmont.

Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Belfort is brilliant, the guy once again showing us why he has one of the best track records in Hollywood. Inception, Shutter Island, The Departed, Django Unchained, Blood Diamond, Catch Me If You Can - the guy rarely puts in a bad performance. In The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio swings from effortlessly charming to off-the-chain unhinged. Like Belfort himself, DiCaprio pours every ounce of charisma and salesman charm into the performance, turning a wholly dislikeable character into someone you almost find yourself rooting for. Only almost however.

Belfort's wide-ranging acts of debauchery (like blowing cocaine into fairly unhygienic female body parts) make him a detestable character come the end of the film. It's a wonderfully paced arc that follows the character from naive wide-eyed eagerness, through full-blown, depraved excess and finally, a satisfying and deserved comeuppance. Both Scorsese and DiCaprio handled the characterisation of Belfort extremely well.

Jonah Hill is also great in this film. Together with DiCaprio, Hill is supremely funny, funnier than he has been in anything involving Seth Rogen or Judd Apatow.

Matthew McConaughey continues his career renaissance with a great cameo as Belfort's mentor, Mark Hanna. Kyle Chandler also pops in as FBI agent Patrick Denham, who is on the trail of the wrongdoings at Stratton Oakmont. However, it is the lead female role that stuck out for me most. Margot Robbie bursts onto the scene in her first major role as Belfort's second wife, Naomi. Her character is one of the strongest in the film, and one of the only characters to have some degree of control over Belfort.

The Wolf of Wall Street has a seriously long run-time, clocking in at nearly three hours. Yep, THREE HOURS. It's a damn long film, and this may chase away some people who aren't prepared to sit down and get through it all. To those people I say, you're missing out.

The film races around at terminal velocity for practically the entire time, barely pausing to draw breath. It's a frenetic, drug-fuelled sportscar that doesn't know when, or how, to apply the brakes. It's only in the films final half-an-hour that you begin to feel like things start to wind down and come to a head. It's a lot of fun, but around the 150-minute mark, I did find that I was waiting for things to wrap up. I felt that this film would have been a teensy bit better had Scorsese trimmed the edges a little more.

It's also worth noting the R-classification for this movie. The Wolf of Wall Street is plastered with drugs, full-frontal nudity and sex, swearing (a record number of F-bombs) and all-manner of adult content. It isn't going to be for everyone, and the easily offended should steer very clear.

However, it is worth point out that the film strives to condone the behaviour on-screen. Scorsese has not set out to make a film that endorses the money-grabbing, drug-taking nature of the lead characters. The Wolf of Wall Street is very much a lesson through excess, showcasing the dire consequences of living recklessly and being self-obsessed.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

Crude, gratuitous, excessive, hilarious and down-right dirty, The Wolf of Wall Street is a very entertaining film that will no-doubt divide audiences. I however, had a lot of fun with this movie.

DiCaprio is an absolute blast as Belfort, a character so charming you'll love to hate him. Hill and Robbie are strong supporting characters, and along with DiCaprio, they deliver career-defining performances that will be remembered for a long time. The script is equal parts sinful and humorous, with some dazzling direction from one of the best in the business. It's an riot from start to finish.


  1. Great review, man. Yeah, it's long and excessive, yet fittingly so, and there's never a dull moment along the way. Good stuff all around, glad you enjoyed it. :)

    1. Thanks man :) Definitely one the funniest movies I've seen for a while, even if I did have to wait extra long to see it here in Australia!



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