The Wolf of Wall Street


Release: Christmas Day 2013


Hand over the ‘ludes, dude, and no one gets hurt!

One of this generation’s most gifted actors teams up once again with the legendary Marty Scorsese with the hopes of stirring up yet another potent cocktail — this time, a film set in the 1980s in the immediate wake of the stock market crash, with Leo playing the part of the profusely wealthy and ambitious Jordan Belfort. With a collection of powerful films already fading in their rearview (The Departed, Shutter Island, The Aviator), this dynamic duo of actor-director is found in 2013 wanting to steer in a slightly different direction — into the neighborhood of genuine comedy and away from the effective but familiar drama.

Leo may be pushing forty but you’d never guess it based on this role. Scorsese’s latest sees him binging on cocaine, alcohol and pills in amounts and in situations that make National Lampoon’s Animal House look like study hall. If blowing coke off strippers and swallowing pills the size of walnuts were his job, he’d be the. . .oh, who am I kidding?! It WAS his job. The job description of a 1980s stock broker at Stratton-Oakmont might have read something like: “Drug addict, womanizer, thief/cheater/manipulator, with a burning desire to out-nasty and out-live the next greedy son-of-a-bitch in line.”

Indeed, Jordan’s first impressions of life on Wall Street fit that profile to a T. As he’s being brought in for his first day at his first brokerage firm, the notion that employees (like him) are “lower than pond scum” is flaunted by the higher-ups; the high-pressure intensity gets drilled into his head as a sergeant would intimidate a fresh set of boot camp trainees. As one might imagine, this particularly cut-throat industry doesn’t allow for a great amount of respect and decency amongst colleagues.

Scorsese and DiCaprio take that concept and run wild with it, conjuring up scene-after-scene of unbridled debauchery and mouth-watering imagery that will cause many viewers to question whether this is a mirror of reality or simply a visual predilection toward the young, rich and powerful.

While it may seem that Leo et al are getting high off of the fact that they are playing characters living in the fast lane, the real impact of this gargantuan (read: party) movie comes from the director’s ability to remain relatively neutral towards the subject. While DiCaprio pulls a Heath Ledger Joker as he dives headfirst into this substantially nasty role — one which audiences are likely to be at least temporarily enamored by — Scorsese is hard at work behind the camera, making sure that this elegant portrayal is captured in raw detail. Not only that, but, contrary to some of the events that go on here, he’s taking great pains to ensure that his characters are very much still grounded in the real world. This outing may not appear to be as dark and brooding as some of his other works, but then again, the misleadingly upbeat and comedic tone is rather intentional.

Also on board to help with Scorsese’s ambitious film is an ensemble cast threatening to erase the memory of what David O. Russell, Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen and heck, why not — even Ridley Scott — had going on for them in each of their respective 2013 efforts. For starters, Jonah Hill — who plays Jordan’s right-hand man, the greasy and hauntingly white-teeth-possessing Donnie Azoff — steps his game up notably in a supporting role that’s likely to garner him an Oscar nom. While he still holds onto many of the spasmodic breakdowns and childish rants that have characterized his on-screen persona over the last decade, the material this time around boosts him to another level entirely. Put up against a man of Leo’s stature, and Hill is not overshadowed like a great many are going to presume he will be.

Then start throwing in the likes of Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Jean Dejurdin and Margot Robbie and the party seems to naturally take on the life Scorsese was probably seeking prior to principal photography. The best news of all is that not only does the cast look phenomenal, it turns in work that essentially gives birth to the hectic pace of this film. McConaughey’s Mark Hanna, one of the first Wall Street heavyweights that a young and then-naïve Jordan Belfort runs into at his first place of employment, is primarily responsible for awakening the beast that dwelled within this handsome, upstart stockbroker. He’s not quite as striking as he has been this year in things like Mud and the recent Dallas Buyers Club, but he suits the moment perfectly and in limited screen time winds up leaving one of the greater impressions upon Jordan’s future and thus the film.

The Wolf is a film where first impressions are pretty important, but what lurks underneath the surface is far more significant. It doesn’t appear to be a brutal film, as it quickly gathers a vibrant, giddy and at times hilarious energy from the very opening shot; yet, the sum totality of the experience is brutal. Brutality manifests itself in the physical as much as it does in the verbal. It would probably be the most accurate usage of the phrase “handsome devil” to describe Leo’s character in this film, because in many instances, that’s just what he is: the devil. What he says and does sometimes is simply unforgivable and at other times, even unthinkable. Ditto that for Donnie Azoff, though he’s not as likely to sucker-punch his own wife in the stomach.

To put it simply, The Wolf is going to go down as one of the most divergent undertakings Marty has ever been a part of — an avenue that is likely to pay off come the Oscars. At the very least, it’s one of (if not) the largest and most intelligently and fervently crafted pieces of the year. The fact that it passes by with the brevity of a 90-minute flick says something about the talent behind the camera as well as that of those who are put in front of it. Not to mention, the brilliant writing of one Terence Winter, who’s responsible for episodes of The Sopranos as well as Boardwalk Empire.

I’m already going through post-movie withdrawal. . .will someone pass the damn ‘ludes already?!


4-5Recommendation: The Wolf of Wall Street offers up so many reasons for why we go to the movies. It’s not only an absurd amount of fun, there’s a fascinating yet troubling story to be told, as well as beautiful people, fantastic performances and a host of gorgeous locations to feast the eyes upon. Scorsese has been in the film business for awhile and yet, for whatever it’s worth, this is a sign that the man is not done yet. Not even close. Despite the lengthy run time, most audiences should find something they will love about this masterpiece.

Rated: R (for rude and risqué)

Running Time: 179 mins.

Quoted:  “I’ll tell you what, I’m never eating at Benihana again. I don’t care whose birthday it is.”

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30 thoughts on “The Wolf of Wall Street

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  3. very good write-up! I realise that I was not as excited about the film as you were, but still was very happy about the film, which is splendid enough to make me forgive the moments of redundancy and silliness. It takes a master like Scorsese to pull this off, and he did, together with a very good cast, indeed!


    • Hey thanks man! Thats okay, it’s good to see different levels of enthusiasm for it since it became quite the ‘controversial’ film considring the vast amount of drug usage, debauchery and swearing. I will admit there was a tad bit of redundancy throughout, but if only just to demonstrate just precisely how ridiculous this man sold himself out. It was kind of sad, really. Belfort started out as a quiet, and rather likable man but then he got on Wall Street. . .and wow. What can anyone say, really? I don’t know anyone who can live like this! lol


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  5. Great write up! I enjoyed it a lot and I think Leonardo DiCaprio deserves a nomination. He’s extraordinary. I do feel the production was rushed out so it could qualify for the Oscars. It should have been edited down to 2 ½ or even better 2 hours. It’s easy to see where this film could’ve been edited to a more manageable length. Scorsese injects too many examples of drug using and whore . With that said, there are SO many great scenes in this film. The cerebral palsy phase in the photo you highlight being one of them.:-)


    • A very good point you make. While I think the case could be made that the at-times repetitive nature of some of the party scenes were excessive — wasn’t that the point being driven home? It did feel a bit uninspired at times and unneeded for sure. But man this guy knew how to live large!

      That said, I loved the movie because Scorsese wasn’t really trying to praise these kinds of people. He just sat and filmed life as it were. Absolutely madness, yet I can see where it could have benefitted from some tidying up. Thanks for the comment and Happy New Year Mark!


  6. Eeeeek! Great review! I am so glad to see that you enjoyed this so much, I cannot wait for it to come to SA, going to see it the moment I have the chance!


    • Gracias amigo. I may be overhyping but at the same time I feel like I’m not. This was one extremely well put-together piece of film. I am quite certain this will do fairly well at the Oscars, despite a lot of racy moments. Hopefully the voters can just look past that and take this for what it is: a hell of a joy ride!


  7. Love that poster! Have no idea why they didn’t use something along the lines of that during the promotion. Anyway, great movie and better yet, a great time at the movies. Just make sure to make some time out of your day for this one, because it’s a long trip. That’s what I’ve been saying to anyone and everyone wanting to see this, and it’s seem to be working. Good review Tom.


    • That’s some pretty sound advice. It is a huge, huge movie. Epic, in fact. But so worthwhile. I might even be going back to see this in theaters with some other non-filmblogging friends. So much to see and absorb here.


    • I try my very most hardest!!! Hopefully I did enough convincing to get you to go. . .if the trailers hadn’t already driven you there! 🙂 What a great film this was. Sitting currently on top of my Favorite List


  8. Wow I really enjoyed this. It wasn’t earth shattering in terms of story, but it was flawlessly executed by an incredible cast. One of the very best films of 2013. I suspect this will be a contender at the Oscars.


    • Oh boy!! Enjoy it James. Look forward to your initial response right after, particularly how much of a frenzy this puts the audience into. 😀 😀


    • Thank you!! The dream team comes together in ways I wasn’t prepared for here! Great, great film. HOpefully you can get to it shortly as well. Obviously it comes recommended by me. 🙂


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