Sunday, March 30, 2014


Do you enjoy watching unlikable people engaging in abhorrent behavior? Do you enjoy watching people take drugs and engage in bizarre sexual acts? And do you like spending three hours watching all of these things? Then THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is the movie for you.

This is a film directed by Martin Scorsese--but this time around he's portraying the lives of white-collar criminals instead of gangsters and hoods. There's no overt violence in WOLF--and it seems because of that Scorsese decided to turn the volume knob up to No. 11, so to speak. This picture is three full hours of unbridled excess and obnoxious characters.

The story is based on real-life financial swindler Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). From the beginning Belfort is a overbearing, arrogant, greedy jerk. It's a part that DiCaprio plays very well--heck, that type of role has become DiCaprio's screen persona (I'll be writing a blog on Leo's film career very soon). Belfort is a sex/drugs/money addict, with no conscience whatsoever. I don't believe every movie has to have a decent character in the lead, but after spending three hours experiencing Belfort's lifestyle you feel like taking a shower.

Of course Martin Scorsese has made several films featuring disreputable people. The difference between those films and WOLF is that in the earlier Scorsese works, he attracted the audience's interest through a suspenseful storyline. The threat of violence in Scorsese's world magnified and propelled the plot. In WOLF you have white collar crime, which is very hard to show cinematically. Instead of shootings or beatings, Socrsese piles on the sex, drugs and lies to the point where it just gets tiresome.

As one would expect from Scorsese, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a very well-made production. Scorsese, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, and editor Thelma Schoonmaker use just about every cinematic trick in the book. The one trick that was left out is the point of it all. Is this movie a dark comedy? Is it a satire? Is it an indictment of American capitalistic greed? If it is, that's a bit ironic, considering that WOLF is a multi-million dollar production featuring multi-millon dollar performers. Every single character in WOLF, with the exception of the FBI agent who takes Belfort down, is a detestable individual. There's no counterpoint to all the lying and cheating; we don't see any victims of these financial crimes. Even at the climax it's hard to say that Belfort got what he deserved--he wound up writing a book and having a major feature film based on his life (he even has a cameo in this movie).

Jordan Belfort's story could have easily been told in about an hour instead of three. It was hard work for me to watch this film--and it's not because I was offended by it. I think Scorsese was trying to match the film's style to Belfort's excessive life. If Belfort really did all these things, then Scorsese succeeded. Personally, I believe he succeeded too well. Spending an entire afternoon watching rich amoral people act like jerks just isn't very entertaining to me, no matter how great the director is.

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