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by Eric Kohn
December 17, 2013 10:59 AM
21 Comments
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Review: With Sex And Drugs Galore, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Is Martin Scorsese’s Craziest Movie

Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street."

A brazen three-hour cinematic bender of sex and drugs set to the tune of financial chaos, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is undoubtedly the craziest movie of Martin Scorsese’s career. With an untamed energy that dwarfs any of his crime dramas, Scorsese’s raucous, exhausting display is driven by an eager commitment to vulgarity. As stock market scammer Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio’s unfettered ferocity meshes with Scorsese’s aim of exploring Belfort’s crafty early nineties rise. Turning his memoir into a vivid portrait of the hedonistic excesses associated with unregulated wealth, “The Wolf of Wall Street” amps up an absurd volume of entertainment value. But it also suffers from an overabundance of the qualities that elevate it to such ridiculous heights. Scorsese depicts his maniacal subjects far better than he interrogates their mania.

Terence Winter's screenplay provides a loose structure for Scorsese's wildly improvised tale, which opens in the midst of a stockbroker office party before sketching out Belfort's origin story. It takes little time to establish that Belfort will be our guide to the mayhem, which in its opening minutes finds the character careening down the highway in a sports car while receiving fellatio from his trophy wife before crashing a helicopter into the front lawn of his mansion. As Belfort narrates this brash introduction to his reckless lifestyle, Scorsese unleashes a slew of stylistic bells and whistles: freeze frames, slo-mo, a blaring rock soundtrack and snazzy camerawork set the stage for a tale of debauchery that refuses to let up.

The movie has the paradoxical feel of being both totally slick and assaultive.

Certainly a funhouse for Scorsese's longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, "The Wolf of Wall Street" feels both totally slick and assaultive, an apt tone for Belfort's self-destructive world. For sheer liveliness, it ranks as the most robust teaming for DiCaprio and Scorsese, and provides ample terrain for Jonah Hill to diversify his range in a supporting role as Belfort's wildcard business partner.

While not as refined as "The Departed," it has a lot more gall. DiCaprio and Scorsese compensate for the lethargic stretches of "Shutter Island" and "The Aviator" by bringing a demented vigor to each moment. The resulting bravado gels nicely with the material while echoing the gritty qualities of Scorsese's earlier works. Harkening back to the jittery sleazeballs of "Mean Streets," Belfort and company decontextualize the usual Scorsese brand of crime by turning it into a cartoonish office farce. Until the FBI catches up, these swindlers are more liberated in their savage pursuits than any other clandestine lawbreakers in the Scorsese oeuvre.

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21 Comments

  • Tom Butters | February 9, 2014 11:39 AMReply

    While I found some acting quite strong, the film on a whole was a snorefest. I've never looked at my watch so many times during a Scorcese film. A turd from the most beautiful woman in the world is still a turd. The film relies solely on name recognition. Utter bore.....

  • Marissa Celenetti | February 8, 2014 3:23 PMReply

    My question is — is this movie doing anything new? At this point, “white Wall Street conmen experience meteoric rise and disgraceful plummet, as accompanied by prostitutes and drugs; cause us to question our own social values” isn’t new ground to tread. In a year where we had some pretty cool and unusual things happening in mainstream cinema (an animated “princess” movie where the most important relationship was between two sisters, a space thriller whose face was a middle-aged woman, a high-grossing action movie starring a young woman, a sci-fi blockbuster where 2/3 leads were NOT white men, a female buddy-cop movie), this just seems….tired. And honestly, nothing in this review is making me think the movie is going to ask any questions that haven’t been asked a million times, in similar explorations. Pass, sorry.

  • John | January 29, 2014 7:09 AMReply

    You definetly not saw "After Hours" (which in my opinion is one of the craziest movies ever).....this is the shallowest movie from Scorcese, just tiresome.

  • David Andrés Morales | January 7, 2014 11:58 PMReply

    You guys need to have a better control of the comments section, its kinda ridiculous and takes away from an otherwise great site.

  • lalapuput | December 27, 2013 11:44 PMReply

    hey man!!! Why do you deceive them by giving false information? do not believe this asshole,
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    you can even download it there

  • lalapuput | December 25, 2013 11:05 PMReply

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  • renee_church@yahoo.com | December 19, 2013 10:29 AMReply

    my neighbor's mother makes $64 an hour on the laptop. She has been laid off for nine months but last month her pay was $19252 just working on the laptop for a few hours. see here.....
    http://7.ly/dnfa

  • rachel | December 18, 2013 7:58 PMReply

    This is a very good review. famous director and superstars combined to deliver some entertainment a little more

  • ljennifer442@yahoo.com | December 18, 2013 2:23 PMReply

    my buddy's mother-in-law makes $83/hour on the computer. She has been laid off for 7 months but last month her pay was $17954 just working on the computer for a few hours. read this.....http://7.ly/dkZm

  • gladys | December 18, 2013 11:57 AMReply

    This i s an average to mediocre movie that sells because of the superstar elements not the quality of the film

  • michaeltran | December 18, 2013 1:40 AMReply

    American hustle is better than this movie. I just wanna say that!!

  • joshua | December 24, 2013 11:55 AM

    then this one must really suck

  • Jon | December 18, 2013 12:19 AMReply

    Lethargic?

  • Helen | December 17, 2013 7:14 PMReply

    This movie is better than american hustle

  • Jeff | January 8, 2014 5:48 PM

    That's not saying much...

  • sam | December 17, 2013 1:29 PMReply

    right on Eric.

  • Theresa | December 17, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    Congratulations . Your analysis of this movie is right on the money. You grade is to generous. The movie sells vulgar dialog and behavior as art!

  • James | January 7, 2014 4:15 PM

    You have seen a Scorsese film before, correct? This is what he is very, very good at, and except for Raging Bull, I've pretty much enjoyed the ride.

  • Tania | December 17, 2013 12:14 PMReply

    OK, you give B to Wolf of Wall Street but you give a B+ or A to the overrated ridiculous boring films of David O. Russell, WTF!!! You are the worst critic ever!!!

  • Ken | December 21, 2013 11:33 AM

    Tania and Michael - stop fighting and read what LJENNIFER442 and renee_church had to say. Now, although LJennifer's buddy's mother-in-law makes more per hour than Renee's neighbours mom, the neighbours mom made a couple thousand more than the mother-in-law!

    With the extra cash you could watch both movies several times in several cities. Perhaps you could both meet each other in a city close to the both of you, go out for McDonalds and discuss the pros and cons of both films....as they're both good but both very very very different. Like a hawaiian pizza and an all-meat one.

  • michaeltran | December 18, 2013 1:45 AM

    Tania:what the hell are u talking about?? American hustle is boring?WTF. It's funny and amazing with great cast, great screenplay. One of the best films of the year!!!