19 January 2014

Short review: The Wolf of Wall Street

(Dir: Martin Scorsese, 2013)

Money, greed, drugs, debauchery. We've been there before, seen it all already. So what does The Wolf of Wall Street bring to the table to thrill us, to horrify us with? Honestly, nothing new. Here's another story of abuse of the stock market and the crazy things people do when they only exist to feed their addiction to ludes, hookers and dollar bills. Except this is a true story (apart from the bits dramatised for cinematic effect of course) yet that hardly differs it from the hue of film's like Wall Street, Boiler Room, etc. It's a three hour masterclass on how to party hard and fuck your life up. That's not such a bad thing but damn is it wearying. One act of carnage in the name of partying hard bleeds into yet another as you can but wonder how these people survived if this is an accurate representation of reality, but the film proves there is too much of a good thing as the cavalcade of narcotics and scantily clad women becomes nothing but bland wallpaper. This is a party drawn out to the point where it feels you're overstaying your welcome, and maybe that's the point, but that only forces your interest to wane.

The entire film hangs on Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort. He is absolutely the highlight, totally inhabiting the manic nature of a man who's happily lost himself down the tunnel of greed and obsession. This is the third role in a row for DiCaprio playing a decadent millionaire after The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained, and it's something he's got down pat. It suits him. He's suitably aided by Jonah Hill in another of those interesting, semi-break from the norm characters he occasionally plays and succeeds in being enjoyable doing so. This is still obviously a Martin Scorsese film, even if it does frequently feel like it's Marty cutting a little loose. All the hallmarks are there in the camera work, editing and excellent attention to music. He nails the excess and the bellicose stock trading floors and manages to make a far funnier film than expected (the country club sequence being a particular highlight). Yet it all feels pretty hollow. There's nothing new here and the ultimate message is blindingly obvious, whilst the horrible effects of the evil's of corporate greed have been handled far better by aforementioned films above. And all this at an hour too long. The Wolf of Wall Street may be fun, but if it weren't for it simply being a Scorsese film and the sheer quality of DiCaprio, I doubt it'd be generating quite the same amount of hyperbolic praise.

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