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Wick's Review

Created Jan 06, 2014 05:35PM PST • Edited Sep 21, 2018 09:24PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    The Wolf of Long Island celebrates a craven criminal: a coke snorting, lude popping, reverse Robin Hood. What’s that? The biopic about the demented Jordan Belfort is titled The Wolf of Wall Street. Really? He spent scant time there. Belfort and his entire operation are Long Islanders down to their puerile pugnacity.

    Martin Scorsese’s 27th movie is still easy to love. Highly accomplished guilty pleasures have that effect. So what if Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio came to bury Belfort, not praise him. Failure can be fun.

    Canis Lupus Lawngylandus was and is a conman of extraordinary proportions. Conmen assume the trappings of legitimate businessmen and use business rationale for nefarious purposes. Scorsese’s flashy movie flaunts those trappings, just as Jordan Belfort’s con artist operation did. That’s the point, to look like business. The intent is not business however. The intent is thievery. The Wolf of Long Island was a thief of extraordinary proportions, of near Madoff proportions. He made off with over a hundred million dollars from credulous marks, people who thought they were “investing” but who were being conned.

    The point of Scorsese’s movie is to make business look bad, even if he and DiCaprio erred in making it look like a whole lotta fun. Whoops. Hollywood always gets that wrong, casting a handsome leading man as a hedonistic creep, only to find that audiences envy him and want to emulate his bad behavior. Thus Leo’s white-collar conman is the Hud of Long Island, er, Wall Street.

    The Wolf of Wall Street is ultimately a cops & robbers movie, with DiCaprio’s thief taken down by Kyle Chandler’s FBI Agent. DiCaprio plays Belfort as a smoothie who can afford his vast addictions. Fear and loathing get taken to previously unseen levels in the offing. Hunter S. Thompson would be impressed.

    Thus I was ready to be sickened by Scorsese’s latest celebration of bad behavior, expecting second rate Raging Bull in $2,000 suits.

    Instead, I was wildly entertained by the Master’s bravura cinematic bacchanalia. Dazzled too, natch. LOLs come surprisingly frequently, at least through the first couple of hours. The final hour doesn’t slacken, but the bile finally outweighs the charm, while the endurance required to take it all in starts to really weigh.

    So what if The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t destined for a spot on Marty’s Final Four Filmography. That doesn’t mean it’s not hugely entertaining, even if the Great Scorsese’s movie of the scummy Belfort’s autobiography starts off hungry like the wolf, yet winds up barely wounding its primary prey.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Leonardo DiCaprio mesmerizes as Jordan Belfort, Long Island schmuck extraordinaire. Perhaps most impressive is the physical acting. Unlike the forced marches he’s endured in movies like Shutter Island, Body of Lies and Blood Diamond, here he gives us an amped-up pub crawl of sorts, essaying the intoxicating effects of crack, coke, quaaludes and hyper-sexuality. Wow. Impressive indeed.

    He’s also hugely impressive as an extraordinary salesman of con artist proportions. The scene where he sells his first penny stock is supremely charismatic acting.

    The huge supporting cast includes several tremendous turns.

    • Jonah Hill plays his demented second in command. While he conveys an equal level of soul sickness, he doesn’t come across as convincingly talented, so his performance is rather disappointing. Mackenzie Meehan plays his poor wife.
    • Margot Robbie plays Belfort’s trophy wife, dubbed The Duchess. She looks the part, though oddly is made out in the movie to be a New Yorker, when she was apparently British in real life.
    • Matthew McConaughey is sickly charming as a legitimately sleazy Wall Street broker. Unfortunately he’s only in a handful of opening scenes. The lunch scene shown in the widely promoted trailer is a classic.
    • Kyle Chandler smoulders righteously as the FBI Agent who brought Belfort down. Chandler should be in every movie from here on out.
    • Rob Reiner as Belfort’s unstable Father. Apparently the real Max Belfort often got scary mad, which Reiner doesn’t sufficiently convey.
    • Belfort’s Merry Men include Jon Bernthal, P.J. Byrne (called ‘Rugrat’ because of his bad toupee), Kenneth Choi, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Ethan Suplee and Barry Rothbart. Bernthal jumps off screen as a macho drug dealer who wears a large Chai and guinea tee — only on Lawn Gyland
    • Jon Favreau as a legal flunky.
    • Jean Dujardin as a smooth Swiss banker.
    • Joanna Lumley as a suave British lady.
    • Shea Whigham as the unfortunate Captain of Belfort’s doomed yacht.
    • Katarina Cas as a sexy something. Truthfully, she didn’t make the same vivid impression in this vast movie as she did in The Guard.
    • Jake Hoffman as shoe entrepreneur Steve Madden, depicted as an introverted rube who gets taken for a ride by Belfort & Co.
    • Bo Dietl plays Himself, an interesting choice since he comes across as a Law Enforcement fixer who skirts illegality.

    Then there are the roughly ten credits for hookers, strippers and hostesses. Seems like there were more…

  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Really Great 4.5
  7. Male Costars Really Great 4.5
  8. Great 4.0

    Martin Scorsese’s film misses the mark by coming across as more a sophomorically enthusiastic recounting of Jordan Belfort’s hijinks than a serious attempt at totaling up the wages of sin. That’s the bad news.

    The good news is that the Master’s trademark sweeping and swooping camera is strongly in evidence, his deep understanding of hedonism and testosterone-fueled misbehavior as virile as ever.

    One scene in particular typifies the film’s showy accomplishment. Belfort (in the form of DiCaprio) walks into a downmarket penny-stock brokerage firm and learns to his astonishment that commissions are an enormous 50%. Picking up a phone to make his first sales call, he proceeds to unreel a masterful pitch the likes of which the shlumps around him have never heard. Slowly they each hang up their phones and fall silent, as Scorsese’s camera circles around Belfort again and again. After he finally closes the biggest sale any of them have ever seen, one asks incredulously “How’d you do that?”

    Now that’s great filmmaking.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Good 3.0
  11. Music Really Great 4.5
  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5
  13. Content
  14. Sordid 3.2

    The depraved behavior hits rock bottom pretty much at the start of the movie and never rises above it. Be warned though: The amoral pricks in the movie never seem to feel like they’ve hit rock bottom.

    This doesn’t seem to matter to Leo’s legions of female fans, who damn near surrounded me in the front rows of my showing at Camera 7. It was fascinating to hear them twitter and giggle as their fantasy man cavorted with hookers, engaged in threesomes and displayed lots of other non-TigerBeat behavior. When he finally hit his wife in a coke-fueled rage, they gasped. Why? Apparently because he’s their Leo, not the coked-out creep he’s playing on screen. Ah, sweet dreams die hard.

  15. Sex Erotic 3.2
  16. Violence Fierce 2.2
  17. Rudeness Nasty 4.2
  18. Glib 1.4

    Martin Scorsese’s film of Jordan Belfort’s self-serving autobiography is long on hijinks and short on details. How much is real? How did Belfort & Co. get away with it? Here’s some articles to set the record straight.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 2.1
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0

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