2 stars
I'm going out on a limb. Hollywood has developed a severe case of New Clothes whose Emperor is Martin Scorcese (Goodfellas / The Aviator). The accolades they have thrown at The Wolf Of Wall St underline how readily Scorcese's work is endorsed more, I wager, because of past achievements than current. Consider this monumentally bloated exercise in excess that follows one of Wall Street's highest flyers – Jordan Belfort – through the wildest moments of the 1980's and beyond. If a three hour run-time doesn't sound alarm bells, the subject matter should. When it comes to corporate greed, we've been here many times before and deserve something new on the subject. This isn't that film.

This 'true' story of Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio - The Great Gatsby / Django Unchained - in exceptional form) comes off a pounding script by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire / The Sopranos), one that leaves no illusions about the kind of man he thinks he was. The story's coda suggests he still is, only now his path is on the right of side of the law. Perhaps. For Belfort was, in his day, more than willing to bend the rules to get his way and when bending wasn't enough, wilfully break them. How else do you get a yacht with a helipad? The gifted broker's rise from obscurity to obscenity was driven by greed, pure and simple, but not the drearily serious Gordon Gecko kind. Belfort loved every minute of every day that made him richer than he could have possibly imagined , then able to spend his cash on every imaginable everything. Too much - money, women, drugs and the glorious trappings that came with them – simply wasn't enough. His friends agreed. The FBI didn't.

As discussed, The Wolf Of Wall Street doesn't stray far from formula. Nor does it stray far from the Scorcese staples of hysterical levels of drugs, sex and language as the gloriously excessive bacchanalia of Belfort's life is laid bare; and with every second word an expletive, it's small wonder it takes so long to get to the point. Talk about forcing it down your throat. Or in Belfort's case, up his nose. And it's a simple point: Wall Street's wolves took us for a ride, still do and will do again. Someone has to pay for their augmented lifestyle. And as Scorcese meanders across this argument in a frustratingly circular fashion, the stereotypes are wheeled out: Belfort's equally depraved best friend (an uncomfortable Jonah Hill - Moneyball / Superbad), an ex-wife who couldn't keep up, the new lover who becomes his shrewish wife (Neighbours' Margot Robbie).

There's no doubting Scorcese's significant influence in Hollywood but that shouldn't equate to an automatic pass, which is what The Wolf Of Wall Street has received. A film about excess can create its own excess in other ways – Lhurmann does it all that time – without forcing audiences through the shrill, gruelling and often boring ordeal this became. At 100 minutes Wolf could have been a cracker of a film that touched the same narrative poles, made the same thematic points and still let DiCaprio's powerhouse performance fill the film. It is unlikely it would have said anything particularly new about a well mined concept, but it would have been a much better movie for it. It might even be deserving of the critical attention that this bloated monster received instead.


Previewed at Events Cinemas, George St, Sydney on 23 January 2104



Leonardo DiCaprio
Jonah Hill
Kyle Chandler
Margot Robbie

Martin Scorcese

Terence Winter




180 minutes

January 23, 2014
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) on IMDb
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