John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Wolf of Wall Street

Genre: Drama

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio , Jonah Hill , Margot Robbie , Matthew McConaughey , Jon Favreau , Kyle Chandler , Rob Reiner , Jean Dujardin , Pj Byrne , Kenneth Choi

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: December 25th, 2013

“I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich, visit web
” Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) states in his new film The Wolf of Wall Street. And becoming rich is the name of the game in this lengthy (it clocks it at nearly three hours) wannabe-epic about a stockbroker whose love of excess and style knows few bounds. Perhaps, drugs
though, it is excess itself that holds this feature back from reaching its full potential.

Director Martin Scorsese is an expert at taking viewers into corrupt world of power and privilege. In Goodfellas (1990), he brought viewers into the mafia in a way that few filmmakers had done before. In Gangs of New York (2002), he told a story about power in the streets of New York in the mid-1800s. Both stories featured powerful and commanding figures who stood at the top of the power structure of their societies. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorcese has attempted to show the Wall Street world of the late 1980’s and all of the extravagance on display there.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the cast as Belfort, a man who went from nearly nothing to becoming a crass millionaire. Belfort takes an early job working for Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), an over-the-top and cocaine-addicted investor who teaches Belfort the ropes. He convinces Belfort to lie, cheat and swindle his clients out of their savings. The stock market crash in 1987 slows down Belfort’s rise but despite that “setback,” he succeeds in the business by selling stocks that are likely worth absolutely nothing.

The first half of this feature is packed to the brim with excess. Belfort becomes so successful that he consistently finds new ways to celebrate . Each week, his office parties with acts of debauchery, which feature massive drug use, prostitutes and sometimes even marching bands parading around the office in their underwear. Did I mention that the employees hire a midget to throw him at a bullseye? These scenes seem to simply celebrate this behavior and not delving deeply into it and these characters are portrayed as caricatures rather than living and breathing individuals.

In the latter half of the story— which introduces FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler)— works better at showing an actual story rather than endless scenes of drug use and partying. Belfort and his longtime associate Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) must slowly come to realize that their empire is built on nothingness. As they do, the audience sees them react accordingly. It’s in these scenes that most of the character development takes place and some of these characters actually begin to build personalities.

It’s all together hard not to appreciate The Wolf of Wall Street as it is. The acting is top-notch and McConaughey excels in his brief but vulgar turn as a successful investor. It’s hard though not to leave this film disappointed, knowing that the story glosses over the depth of these characters and oftentimes settles for the spectacle of the scenes. Reiner shines here as Belfort’s father but like most of the relationships here, the father-son dynamic is never fully explored and the reasons why his father lets him live so carelessly is never revealed.

That being said, The Wolf of Wall Street is highly-watchable entertainment and a celebration of excess. I only wished it had been more.



Review by: John Hanlon