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 The Wolf of Wall Street

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: The Wolf of Wall Street   Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:37 am

Since his Oscar win for The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese has had a wide variety of projects on the go. As well as doing a psychological thriller with Shutter Island (2010) and a family film with Hugo (2011). He's also done documentaries, with his Rolling Stones concert Shine A Light (2008) and George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011). But after The Departed, aside from his adaptation of Shūsaku Endō's novel Silence, which will be his next film, one project that landed on Scorsese's desk a few times was one optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio in 2007, The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. It was set up at Warner Bros. and it was intended to be Scorsese's follow-up to The Departed, but after working on it for a few months in 2007, Warners dumped the project much to Scorsese and DiCaprio's dismay. While Scorsese did Hugo, DiCaprio offered it to Ridley Scott to direct, and it came close but the funding fell through and the projects content scared off a lot of studios. In 2012, independent producers Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland off Red Granite Pictures revived the project, bringing back Scorsese and in turn, Scorsese brought on Terence Winter, who created the TV series Boardwalk Empire that Scorsese produces, to write the film. On the surface, The Wolf of Wall Street should have been a low-budget morality tale, but with Scorsese at the helm, he crafts a massive 3 hour epic black comedy which is absolutely shocking and also absolutely hilarious.

It begins in 1987, when Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) arrives on Wall Street to work for investment banker L.F. Rothschild, where his boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) gives him a few illicit tricks of the trade, and how to indulge in it. However, when L.F. Rothschild collapses after Black Monday, Jordan finds himself out of a job. Desperate, he takes a job at a seedy Long Island boiler room ran by Dwayne (Spike Jonze), dealing in penny stocks, which the regulators take no notice off. Jordan uses the advice and tricks Mark Hanna taught him to sell these useless stocks, using an aggressive pitching style, it makes him very rich. Jordan's ways catch the attention of neighbour Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), who wants to join Jordan's little enterprise. Jordan and Donnie go into business together, and create a company working out of an abandoned garage called Stratton Oakmont. The company makes millions, but it soons snaffles the attention of FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who is dubious of Jordan's money making schemes. Meanwhile, Jordan has got married to Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie), and moving money into a Swiss account with corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) in the name of Naomi's aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), who the FBI can't touch. However, as Jordan gets richer, he becomes more and more obsessed with absolute power, as well as Quaaludes, a powerful drug which makes cocaine seem mild in comparison.

In the first few minutes of this film, we witness DiCaprio snorting cocaine out of a prostitute's anus. That sets the tone for the film, and that isn't even the end of it!! Scorsese has his cast doing a lot of questionable things throughout this film, and you can't believe he gets away with it!! This is Scorsese's most extreme and outrageous film to date. Plus, it's also his funniest film to date. Scorsese has never really done a proper comedy as such, he's come close with black comedies like The King of Comedy (1982) and After Hours (1985), even if the humour of those films weren't laugh out loud, only darkly ironic. This film IS laugh out loud funny, and it has a lot of moments you really shouldn't be laughing at. It's a morality tale about the absolute corruption of absolute power, and how, to quote Scarface (1983), "Nothing exceeds like excess." That's very true in the case of this film. Nothing is ever enough for our heroes, the world is simply not enough. The financial world is a dangerous world to be dealing in, and Jordan tries to talk us through his practices, but gives up, summing up what they're doing in a nutshell. "Was all this legal?? Absolutely not!!" What they get up to on the stock floor of Stratton Oakmont is absolutely outrageous, with parties including brass bands, drum majorettes, prostitutes and dwarves being thrown through the air at a target. While some of this may or may not have happened, it looks absolutely brilliant on screen!!

That Scorsese has made a 3 hour epic, and only make it feel like half the length is an applaudable achievement, it's a technical marvel. A massive epic for grown-ups. At key points in the film, we witness the orgies and celebrations of Belfort's workers in slow-motion to the strains of Smokestack Lightning by Howlin' Wolf. There's a lot of slo-mo in this film and other effects which show the effects of the dreaded Quaaludes and other drugs. It's brilliantly filmed by Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, whose many great works so far include Amores Perros (2000), Alexander (2004), Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Argo (2012). It's shot with a fast and furious style with a lot of set-ups and different locations around New York and into Europe as well. This is helped with the fast cutting by Scorsese's long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who helps to capture the fast and hedonistic lifestyle of Belfort and his cronies. Plus, Scorsese and his musical director Robbie Richardson (frontman off The Band), create their most musically diverse film to date, mixing old songs by Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley and Eartha Kitt, it puts in the likes of Kanye West, Ian Dury and the Blockheads and Billy Joel. It's an eclectic mix, but it helps to enhance this mad world.

This is the 5th time Scorsese and DiCaprio have worked together, and this is arguably their best collaboration to date. Plus, this is a bit of a rarity for DiCaprio, as you get to see him do one thing you've seldom seen him do his career. Comedy. Would you believe it?? DiCaprio proves to be fucking amazing at doing comedy, when he's teaching his people how to sell stocks, the facial and bodily expressions he makes are absolutely hilarious and this'll make you wish that DiCaprio does more comedy instead of serious roles. One sequence where he's out of his head in Quaaludes proves just that. Plus, Jonah Hill turns in a likeable and understate performance as his partner Donnie, even if he is prone to the odd bit of excess, which is witnessed in graphic detail at a party in the film. DiCaprio and Hill make a brilliant comedy partnership in the film which is so unlikely but great fun to watch. The rest of the cast brilliantly enhance the film too, from Margot Robbie as Belfort's unfortunate wife Naomi, who is thrown into the eye of the storm of the excess. Matthew McConaughey has a really funny cameo, which is all over too soon, and he should have stock around for more. You won't look at Jean Dujardin in the same way ever again after his amusing little cameo in this film, and what he gets up to as well, plus the great Joanna Lumley makes an impressionable cameo where she plays the lovelorn Aunt Emma who has feeling for Belfort at one point. Wink





While the film may highlight and depict this hedonistic and self-destructive lifestyle, it doesn't glamourise it, although it may look that way on film, it makes for an absolutely excellent tale of power and excess gone mad, which Scorsese explored before in Casino (1995), which was also a cautionary tale of power given to the wrong kinds of people, and how they fucked it all up. Scorsese might be in his 70's, but he's showing no signs of slowing down, he's constantly surprising audiences with tackling new and exciting projects time and again. Here, he went from Hugo (2011), a sweet and moving family film, to making the most adult film imaginable, with lots of excessive drug taking, fuck being uttered more than 500 times in it's 3 hour running time. Oh, and that's another thing, there's a 4 hour cut of the film being rumoured for it's release on DVD and Blu-Ray which boggles the mind as to what was cut out?? How much more insane and excessive could this film possibly get?? But, the fact is that this is a very good and extremely funny film, which makes for a great piece of entertainment, and it's definitely up there with Scorsese's finest films, up there with Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990). It's 3 hour running time might look off-putting, but it's not, this is a film that had to be long, to cram in all the madness and shocking exploits of our heroes, if you can call them that. A modern masterpiece for the ages. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Wolf of Wall Street   Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:56 am

Ace review, Don. Top film.

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