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Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Greed, sex, and drugs abound in Scorsese’s latest

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In The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio reaches to heights not seen since The Basketball Diaries.


The Wolf of Wall Street

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Now Playing at the Senator Theatre

Only Martin Scorsese could’ve followed the magical Hugo with The Wolf of Wall Street.

In his new movie, Scorsese channels Jake LaMotta and Metal Machine Music-era Lou Reed, becoming a loud, raging bull not at all concerned with attention spans or other trivial things. He goes all out, and takes Leonardo DiCaprio with him to heights not seen since The Basketball Diaries. But here’s a real warning: If you’re in addiction recovery, stay away from this flick.

The movie, based on financial scammer Jordan Belfort’s 2007 book, is Scorsese at large in a trip so wild it makes Goodfellas’ and Casino’s paces seem Ingmar Bergman-esque. Wolf is full of tits and asses and coke lines and rolled-up bills; it looks and sounds like greed. The frenetic, nonstop barrage of pleasures shows you what we all know: Capitalism is a system in which a small-time stockbroker who made millions by screwing thousands can get away with a slap on the wrist. Belfort (played sensationally well by DiCaprio) served less than two years in jail and has now reinvented himself as a so-called “motivational” speaker after cashing in on his book and movie rights. God bless America.

If I had to choose one song from the soundtrack to describe how the movie feels, I’d choose 7Horse’s “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker,” but speed it up even more. Wolf is a frontal attack that gives you little respite, a never-ending drumbeat that glues you to your chair and slaps you in the face over and over again. Don’t be fooled by the cascade of cocaine, Quaaludes, money, and honey (before the first hour passed, I was ready to take a celibacy vow)—when Scorsese steps on the brakes, the film keeps moving and you realize that the greed theme is only an excuse for the director to film four or five of the best scenes he’s ever done.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie of couples: DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey (still looking as gaunt as he did in Dallas Buyers Club, he has a small but Oscar-worthy role as the unscrupulous stockbroker who first trains Belfort); DiCaprio and Jonah Hill (as Donnie, his first partner-in-crime); DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler (as the FBI agent who finally nabs him, touting the same type of nervous, hateful laughter as that of Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in True Romance); and DiCaprio and Aussie actress Margot Robbie (as Belfort’s second trophy wife, she goes from blond bimbo to Rosie Perez in Do the Right Thing without changing skin color). Together, these couples put on a dialogue feast for the ages, courtesy of Emmy-winning screenwriter Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire). To paint the movie with the color of money, Scorsese hired Mexican cinematographer wiz Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros, Brokeback Mountain), another addition to a perfect package of great acting and top-notch production.

Scorsese also displays casting genius here. Belfort’s only hope to remain “legal” requires someone with a European passport to be able to deposit his millions in a Swiss bank account managed by monsieur Jean-Jacques Saurel (the Oscar-winning Jean Dujardin, The Artist). Enter Joanna Lumley (Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous) as Belfort’s wife’s refined Aunt Emma; she and DiCaprio share a memorable scene on a park bench.

Still, the best scene you will see all 2014 is when Belfort (DiCaprio) and Donnie (Hill) get high on expired Quaaludes and descend into what Belfort calls “cerebral palsy mode.” The long, terrifyingly hilarious scene is among the best-edited work Scorsese has ever produced.

Yes, The Wolf of Wall Street is overlong (I get it, Marty, too much drugs and unlimited unprotected sex is bad for you), over-the-top, and self-indulgent. But when those indulging are Scorsese and his troupe of freaks, you could do a lot worse than taking that exhilarating three-hour trip.

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