Review: 'The Wolf of Wall Street' shows excessive excesses

Posted at 01/16/14 11:10 AM

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is about the rise and fall of one Jordan Belfort, a fast-talking con man selling penny stocks to unsuspecting clients to earn that whopping 50% commission. He built up a financial empire with simply too much hot money than he know what to do with them. Jordan and his cohorts, led by the loud and obnoxious Donnie Azoff, lead a life of unbridled debauchery until the long arms of the law finally catch up with them.

While this film seemed like it was celebrating the crime Belfort was perpetrating, director Martin Scorsese told it in a very frenetic and entertaining way. The structure of the film was odd though, as the first two hours plus was about the scandalously wild lifestyle Belfort and friends had in the lap of luxury. It was fun, yes, to the point of annoyance. Only the last 40 minutes or so was about his inevitable fall and retribution, making it feel like an afterthought.

Leonardo DiCaprio summons again his inimitable charm and charisma we saw before in "Catch Me If You Can" to higher stakes criminal activity as Belfort. Leonardo's Belfort was like his last role Jay Gatsby, but on amped up overdrive, pulling all the stops, giving everything he had with a burning passion that oozes through the screen. He has this hilarious sequence when he had a catatonic fit after taking a strong drug, never knew Leo was capable of such energetic physical comedy. After his Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Comedy with this role, he stands a good chance of finally scoring his first Oscar.

Jonah Hill plays Belfort's reckless partner Donnie with rabid perversity. It was like his last film, the insane "This Is The End," goes to New York high society. He has excellently outrageous comic chemistry with DiCaprio. The classy, beautiful and sexy Margot Robbie plays Naomi, the hot socialite who swept Belfort off his feet. I first noted her in a small role in last year's "About Time", and with this daring role, she is bound for the big time.

In smaller but still notable roles were Matthew McConaughey as Belfort's first Wall Street mentor, Rob Reiner as Belfort's prudent father, Jean Dujardin as Belfort's European contact and Kyle Chandler as the FBI agent who wanted to bring Belfort down at all costs.

After the first one and half hours of the over-the-top obscene lifestyle Jordan and pals live, you will feel that all of this depiction of inane debauchery is kind of getting too repetitive and long for comfort. There will be scenes of sexual orgies of all kinds to the point of misogyny. There will be multiple scenes of almost everybody taking drugs and we see all the shocking effects. Your ears will feel numbed with all the foul language in seemingly every one of their sentences. The F word was integral to their vocabulary.

However, thanks to the pedigree of the people behind this film, namely Scorsese and DiCaprio, the brilliant cinematography and opulent production design, we are reminded that this is still an A-list project, not just some raunchy blue movie drowning in kilos of cocaine, naked prostitutes and incessant profanity. I just thought it could have lost some of the excessive scenes of excess in the first two hours and still had gotten the story across. 7/10.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."