WOLF OF WALL STREET, THE
The rise and fall of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio); from an ambitious young newcomer on Wall Street learning from a 'master of the universe' Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life (high in every sense) to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government in the 1990s. (Based on a true story)
Review by Louise Keller:
Excessive and entertaining in equals portions, Martin Scorsese's wild tale of greed and its spoils of sex, drugs and debauchery earns its R rating as well as a big tick for Leonardo diCaprio who lets fly with no safety net in a dizzying rollercoaster ride of misguided morality. Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko seems almost mild in comparison to diCaprio's Jordan Belfort, whose innermost thoughts, darkest secrets and ultimate fantasies are splashed onto the screen in an unrelenting onslaught of eye-popping revelations. Much of the action is a bit like a train wreck from which you simply can't tear your eyes away and the film is like a non-stop adrenalin hit with its hyperactive greenback-inspired reality, explicit sex scenes, devil-may-care attitudes and liberally punctuated by ironic humour that will literally have you in stitches.
Based on a true story, the action begins in 1987 (the same year Oliver Stone's Wall Street was made), when the ambitious Jordan Belfort begins his lightning rise as a high flying stockbroker who makes his own rules. A white Ferrari, a 170 foot yacht, a mansion, a sexy blonde wife, cocaine, pills, prostitutes and more money than he knows what to do with are part of the parcel. Everything is in praise of the dollar, as shown in the film's first scene, when dwarves are thrown mercilessly at a giant office dartboard, on whose bullseye is a dollar sign. If you think that is unusual behaviour in an office, just wait... there is plenty more to come. The lunch scene in which Belfort's first boss (Matthew McConaughey in great form) instructs his new recruit is very funny, with McConaughey beating his chest like an ape on heat as he spills the beans on how to be a success with sex-drugs-alcohol bullets in his belt. That is the first and last time we see Balfort drinking water and refusing an offer of illegal substances.
Through Belfort's voice-over narration, we are intimately allowed to access his every thought through his heady rise and fall. There is a sense of the ludicrous in the early days as he starts his own outfit, recruiting dubious salesmen who he inspires to become telephone terrorists by his slick patter and training. Debauchery of lifestyle quickly follows with alcohol and substance abuse and an abundance of sex. Success breeds success and the testosterone-fuelled excesses in the office have to be seen to be believed. Theirs is a perverse kind of loyalty. One of the funniest scenes arrives when there is a delayed reaction to the illicit pills that Belfort has taken, rending him unable to stand, walk or talk - let alone drive his Ferrari. He attempts to do all of the above in what he terms his 'cerebral palsy' phase in a critical situation with the FBI (Kyle Chandler) hot in pursuit by this stage.
Former Home and Away star Margo Robbie makes an impression as Belfort's trophy wife Naomi, after who his mega-yacht is named and Jonah Hill is terrific as Belfort's partner Donnie Azoff with the super-white teeth and with whom diCaprio has some key scenes. Watch out for The Artist's Jean Dujardin as the Swiss banker who has an answer to all Belfort's money problems (having too much money, that is); his scenes are highly entertaining. Joanne Lumley as Naomi's Aunt Emma, who helps in the money laundering process is a great addition, as is Rob Reiner as Belfort's crusty Dad.
Scorsese's filmmaking is dense and passionate with sharp editing; there is unbridled lust for life on display. The three hours running time simply flies - so much is happening all the time that there is no change of becoming bored or complacent. This is a hell of a ride and ultimately of course, a morality tale. As for diCaprio, he convinces at every turn, standing tall at the helm of the wolf's lair, his star shining brightly through all the depravities and intimacies that unravel.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Like a top chef, Martin Scorsese has gone to the markets and picked the best produce he could find - and then presented it without overcooking it, without over embellishing it. Hell's bells, it was so over-embellished in real life he might have had to tone it down a notch. Jordan Belfort's frank memoir is a seductive confessional of how not only he but so many on Wall Street treated (treat?) Americans with contempt in their greedy drive to become rich enough to burn 100 dollar bills.
Seductive because in all the colour and action and bare flesh and piles of money and vulgar riches, we tend to forget that the money has come from somewhere - or more precisely, from someone. Many someones who were taken for a ride.
Leonardo diCaprio understands this and beds it into his extraordinary performance, in which he has to be faithful to Jordan as a character - but he can show it all. We can tell whether he's earned redemption.
Jordan's first encounter on Wall Street is one of the most influential, as he comes into the orbit of Mark Hanna, a riveting performance by Matthew McConnaughey as a pencil thin and pencil sharp stockbroker who knows the business like a shark knows the ocean.
Jordan quickly adapts to a life of drugs - more than as many as possible - and his addiction to money is equally ferocious and callous. He is not alone. The office parties Jordan's company make even the most outrageous Christmas parties (say, like some in Canberra on the public bill) look tame. He's paying, everyone's playing, nothing's too debauched.
Jonah Hill plays his business partner Donnie Azoff, who has risen is riches but never left the gutter in spirit, Margot Robbie is stunning as his second wife Naomi (also to look at) and Jean Dujardin (of The Artist fame) is wonderful as the duplicitous Swiss banker, Saurel. The entire supporting cast of stockbrokers and hangers on is outstanding and Kyle Chandler is a knock out as low-key, high impact FBI Agent Patrick Denham.
Turning prose into cinema is incredibly challenging, having to clothe those words on paper into visual reality, turn those word-picture characters into three dimensional, emotionally vibrant figures whose thoughts and actions have to matter to us, or it's all a waste of time.
This film is definitely not a waste of time; it's an often unflinching and incisive look into greed and how it corrupts us.
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WOLF OF WALL STREET, THE (R18+)
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Cristin Milioti, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley, Spike Jonze, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner
PRODUCER: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SCRIPT: Terence Winter (memoir by Jordan Belfort)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodrigo Prieto
EDITOR: Thelma Schoonmaker
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bob Shaw
RUNNING TIME: 175 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 23, 2014