Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street Roars with Ferocity

The Wolf of Wall Street (4 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese (The Departed, Goodfellas)
Written by: Terrence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, and Jonah Hill 

This film is going to be a mixed bag for people, most people want a moral to a story, or a "lesson learned."  The lesson learned in this film is that people are selfish, and within out society they are willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get snort and sleep with whoever they want.  Not exactly a good lesson.  If you are expecting these characters, and director Martin Scorsese to coddle you into making you feel like everything will turn out fine then go see a Disney flick.

Wall Street centers on the real life, Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) a broker who is taught by a mentor played briefly by Matthew McCounaughey to pull a fugazi, namely steal from his clients.  The economic crisis in 1987 sends Jordan back to the bottom, where he must climb, or well claw his way back into the game.  While searching for a job he stumbles upon a small firm in Long Island that uses pink sheets selling penny stocks to the less financially solvent people.  While those around him fail to gain the big sales, Jordan dreams big in order to take the fifty percent commission, and boy can he sell

As his own person wealth begins to rise he meets Donnie (Hill).  Donnie questions Jordan on his fancy car, and on his bank statement.  In one of the most memorable moments of the film Donnie asks Jordan to prove he made 72 grand in one month, and he will quit his job, and work for him.  Soon Donnie is on a pay phone quitting his job, and the bond between best friends begins, and as their friendship grows, their goals of running their own con through their firm Stratton Oakmont begins.

This film is above conning the audience, this is proof as Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have worked together on five films starting with Gangs of New York, then The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and now this picture.  With every film they get bolder and magnetism on the screen grows, this is their best work together.

Leonardo DiCaprio pulls off another "Gatsby-like" role with Jordan, but within this film the material is much stronger, and the range of his performance is so damn convincing.  Jordan could and maybe should be described as a terrible person, but like the real life person many were drawn into his world, and you feel the same way about DiCaprio's performance.  DiCaprio speechifies, he has the command of his stock troops, or even when he's lying to the people he "loves" there is something so raw, and brutal about this performance.

Martin Scorsese adds to the decadence of his Jordan's surroundings with one of the most visually sumptuous looking films.  A lot of the credit should also go to cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Amorres Perros) who does a fantastic job highlighting the orgy (sometimes literally) of goods from mansions and yachts to sex crazed parties. 

Martin Scorsese's last film, Hugo, was also visually stunning, but these films are like night and day.  Scorsese uses the sharp wit from Terence Winter's script to help highlight this dark world with brutal honesty.  Leo is a funny guy, but Jonah Hill steals the show with comedy in this film, the guy is just funny; he knows how to deliver a line of sarcasm and humor with perfection.  Hill is a scene stealer.  The same can be said for Margot Robbie who bursts onto the screen the same way blonde bombshell Cathy Moriarty did in Raging Bull.  Robbie does not always deliver the laughs, but she draws you in, and eventually as she loses herself and Jordan you get the intensity you want from her character, this is what Jennifer Lawrence should have delivered in American Hustle.

Martin Scorsese pushes the limits; he tells a darker, braver story about a group of guys who con the pants off Wall Street.  Using Winter's brilliant script Scorsese's tale blends humor to show just how ridiculous the world of white collar crime has become, and some of the earliest stories from people stealing from the poor and keeping for themselves.  Scorsese does not clean up the story, he shines a bright spot light on just how nasty these men were, and that even in the end the they still try to sell themselves and other people their bull shit.  In the hands of a lesser team this could have gone badly, but with Scorsese and Leo they pull off another great work of art.


Dan O. said...

The run-time may make and break some, but for me, I didn't mind it. I loved it actually, as it gave me plenty more time to just digest everything in as it was happening at a lightning-quick speed. Good review Kevin.

Joshua Kelley said...

I could have watched another hour of it. fast, crazy and full insanity. loved every second of it. good review man.