'THE WOLF OF WALL STREET' (R) (3 1/2 STARS)
Written by Terrence Winter based on the book by Jordan Belfort
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Christina Miliotti, Joanna Lumley.
The excess of Wall Street and it's sleazy stockbrokers are depicted in Martin Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street" with a fascinating and fast filmmaking style. I say this because if I had to spend time in real life with these jerks I would run out of the room screaming. Maybe I am generalizing too much here because I shouldn't compare stockbrokers in general to Jordan Belfort, I hated him though. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is full of boorish and hateful men and I found a few of the characters dull but Jordan Belfort is fascinating due to Scorsese's direction and Leonardo DiCaprio's bravura performance, maybe my favorite of his.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" tells the real life story of corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort who preyed and made money off of people illegally. The half solid and half rambling screenplay by Terrence Winter is based on Jordan Belfort's book. This is a three hour movie about the rise and fall of Jordan and credit Scorsese for turning a could have been sluggish movie into a very fast three hours. Jordan's mentor at 22, when he started out, is Mark Hanna and Hanna is played by Matthew McConaughey who again has stunned me. Mark is my favorite character in the movie and he doesn't stay long and I missed him for the rest of the movie. Though again Scorsese keeps up the fascinating filmmaking throughout the rest of the three hours even without Mark Hanna.
Jordan starts up his own company out of a strip mall with a group of nerdy losers. I found these characters dull and there are too many scenes that include them that I would have cut out. One of the nerds is Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill, and Azoff starts out as a boorish nerd who turns into a richer, more powerful, boorish nerd. Jordan and Azoff will make most of their money illegally at the expense of weaker minded clients. A federal agent, Agent Patrick Denham, catches on to the two and there will then start a game of cat and mouse between Denham and Jordan. Add to the mix Jordan's second wife, a bombshell blonde, named Naomi who will fall under Jordan's spell.
Now I wasn't that interested in most of the supporting characters but I was fascinated by Jordan and his relationship with his wife. I was fascinated by the story of all the dirty dealings and the movie did grow on me and most of that credit goes to the wonderful Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has not lost his masterful touch, directing fast, energetic scenes that roll by in a glorious cannonball of momentum. This movie is three hours but it flew by for me and what could have become a bore stays on course thanks to Scorsese's never ending energy and control of the camera. I also thought that Leonardo DiCaprio has never been this fascinating in a movie and he has done a lot of fascinating stuff! DiCaprio is a force here and he turns what could have been a boorish dullard into something higher. I have never seen DiCaprio this much on fire, this could be my favorite performance of his.
I might not be that interested in all of the characters but the supporting acting is all wonderful. McConaughey is brilliant, fun and forceful in such a small part. Margot Robbie is sexy, beautiful and hot, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley plus a hilarious Rob Reiner are all genius. Jonah Hill is also very funny and full of energy here but his character can become really annoying. Hill is great but Winter's screenplay makes Hill yell a lot so his performance suffers just a smidge. The editing here for a three hour movie is amazingly cut just right by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker and the movie is beautifully shot. In other director's hands this would become dull fast what with a lot of boorish characters populating the movie. Only Scorsese can turn a movie with risky plot material into gold.
Martin Scorsese has made some masterpieces and I mean a lot of them. Of course I will have my list of Scorsese's masterpieces, his fascinating failures and his middle tier movies. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is on my middle tier Scorsese level along with movies like "Casino" and "New York, New York". Those were wonderfully made Scorsese movies but they have weaker stories so "Wolf" becomes not as memorable as the best of Scorsese just like "Casino". Though Scorsese can make the most despicable characters like Jordan become somewhat likeable and make us want to follow them. Scorsese and DiCaprio do some amazing things here, Scorsese with his filmmaking greatness and energy and DiCaprio with his energy and charm.
There is a scene in the middle of this movie that is hilarious and jaw dropping. It involves some slapstick and some shockingly weird visuals. Only artists as amazing and skilled as Scorsese and DiCaprio can take a weird sequence and turn it into a comic masterpiece. Scenes and performances like this are as good a reason as anything to go see this on the big screen. A few amazing scenes, a few amazing characters and bravura performances by DiCaprio and McConaughey are worth the price of admission alone.