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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

Scorsese complements DiCaprio with an equally zany flair, including one knockout sequence that finds the character wreaking havoc while on Qualuudes. These moments don’t give the movie much of a soul, but the unruliness provides set pieces that compensate for what amounts to a long slog through terrible behavior. Always something of a horror show about the perils of too much money, at its best "The Wolf of Wall Street" explores its corporate targets by transforming their world into a working professional twist on "Animal House."

There's no question about the efficacy of Scorsese's filmmaking prowess, only that he never knows -- or doesn't care -- to slow down and deepen the material.

But as Scorsese keeps the salaciousness coming -- an airplane orgy here, an S&M session there -- "The Wolf of Wall Street" diminishes the ability for ideas to win out over the spectacle. There's no question about the efficacy of Scorsese's filmmaking prowess, only that he never knows -- or doesn't care -- to slow down and deepen the material.

Despite the sexual pageants that beckon comparisons to "Fellini Satyricon," Scorsese's best-directed scenes aim for grander visions: An impressively realized boat sequence, in which Belfort gets caught in a storm and refuses to face death sober, stands out for its metaphorical representation of financial uncertainties. Scorsese's ability to work a major set piece into his story temporarily makes its heft seem worthwhile. But it's only a single weighty moment in a sea of many more superfluous ones. Thematically speaking, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is often too obvious and never remotely subtle.

Still, the inherently trivial means by which Scorsese foregrounds his protagonists' insanity pays off in a climax that hints at Belfort's ability to infect society at large with the same lusts that corrupted him in the first place. While he's told earlier by a cohort that the FBI "thinks you're Gordon fucking Gekko," the movie asserts that he's something scarier: Belfort's lasting successes imply not that greed is good, but that it has the power to make its champions invincible. Scorsese makes that point too bluntly and too often, while sometimes celebrating the same excess he's seemingly trying to condemn. That very ambiguity infuses "The Wolf of Wall Street" with the same overwhelming and dangerous sense of self-determination that afflicts its characters.

Criticwire grade: B

HOW WILL IT PLAY? With buzz high and the vulgar ingredients generating obvious box office heat, Paramount is bound to see strong returns when "The Wolf of Wall Street" opens Christmas Day. While competition at this time of the year is formidable, the movie seems well-positioned to continue gaining momentum in the new year and remaining a player throughout the rest of Oscar season, when it's bound to land major nominations (if less likely to score big wins).


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,
    I've watched this film for free at http://moviess.biz/play.php?movie=0993846
    you can even download it there

  • lalapuput | December 25, 2013 11:05 PMReply

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    there you can watch the film for free even you can download, thank you for moris
    already showed me a place where I can watch the film for free

  • 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!!!