By Matt Laroe (New York)


Nothing Exceeds like Excess

If there is anything that could sum up the latest Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration it would be this. It fits the lifestyle of former stockbroker crook Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) as we witness his climb up the ladder of Wall Street titans from penny stock seller in a strip mall in Long Island to Stratton Oakmont, the brokerage firm he founds that would go on to fraud millions of dollars out of the pockets of investors. Yes, that was a run on sentence, but again writing about a film that follows a lifestyle that exceeds the normal (and maybe the appropriate) I think you will forgive me for exceeding the conventions of appropriate writing and grammar.

There is almost not enough one can say about “Wolf” and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. We are exposed to what we are supposed to believe was the work environment of this under the radar brokerage firm where we saw people make money almost easier than they could spend it. On one hand, this could be DiCaprio’s crowning achievement. He is let off the leash and gives us his wildest, funniest, and most bizarre performance of his career. We have seen DiCaprio display brief flashes of comedic talent in his career and those who have been asking for more get what they ask for here. He has us hooked from the beginning as a bright eyed 22 year old Belfort who was straight as an arrow to the end when he is a drugged up douche bag who is left a hollow shell of his former self after his world comes crashing down on him.

DiCaprio plays this transformation masterfully and he has us wrapped around his finger until the very end. There is some strong supporting work from Jonah Hill, who plays Belfort’s right hand man Donnie Azoff and the “Jeweyest” Jew ever put on screen. Seriously, from the accent, to the teeth, to his horn rimmed glasses, Hills’ Azoff is so over the top that he fits like a glove with what the film is all about. The strongest supporting work is by Matthew McConaughey who plays Mark Hanna, the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Belfort’s Luke Skywalker in terms of the mentoring of Douche-baggery. He is only on screen for a brief amount of time but he steals every scene with his charisma and swagger as he continues his career resurgence.

Now… for the other hand. For all of the good the film displays there is some bad that comes along with it. From the start of Stratton Oakmont, we see that there was a lot of “boys being boys”. That is all well and good, but they display this to us at nauseam. We get it, they did a lot of drugs, had a lot of sex with hookers, and made a shit ton of money, but a good 30 min of these scenes could have been trimmed from the films 3 hour runtime so that it wouldn’t have felt as stale as it did towards the end. Debauchery is what makes the film but it is also what breaks it. It gets old and you eventually can’t wait for the inevitable roof to drop on these assholes.

In the end, Scorsese delivers again with another winner for his fans. He and Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire) take us on a wild ride of sex, drugs, and rock and roll that is unforgettable from start to finish. You will read a lot of other reviews that look down on the films supposed glorification of greed, materialism, and an excessively superficial attitude that has been almost deemed “American”. I think that’s inaccurate, sure parts of America can represent those things to a certain degree, but I don’t feel that is what Scorsese is trying to say. Much of his filmography focuses on different areas of American society that are often glorified and exposes them for what they really are and how undesirable that turn out to be the deeper you get into them (Mafia with Goodfellas, Mean Streets, and Casino for example).

What is the Wall Street lifestyle displayed in “Wolf” if not another form of Mafia? We have a group of people who deceive and manipulate people out of their money and will at times resort to violence if the money flow slows down. Scorsese is showing the dark side of Wall Street that we have become all too familiar with in recent years and the kind of asshole you have to be to survive in that world. It’s the excess of excess that prevents The Wolf of Wall Street from reaching the classic potential that comes along with a Scorsese film, but it’s an undeniable thrill ride that entertains from start to finish.

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