The Wolf of Wall Street is surprisingly thought-free


Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. Rated 18A.

Greed is bad! Greed is bad! Now, keep repeating that for three hours, while picturing all the fun you’d have with a mountain of money, and you pretty much have The Wolf of Wall Street.

Of course, when the filmmaker is Martin Scorsese and the star is Leonardo DiCaprio, the eye will be well occupied even when the mind wanders elsewhere, as is bound to happen, given the surprisingly thought-free script from Terence Winter, one of the main minds behind The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. He adapted his tale, rather uncritically, from the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, a small-time scammer who, in the 1980s and ’90s, managed to hustle from thousands of working schnooks.

DiCaprio plays Belfort, initially seen as a wide-eyed innocent taken under the wing of an experienced Wall Street maven, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey in a couple of largely improvised scenes. Unfortunately, those are the film’s best moments, and the last in which you feel any sympathy for Belfort.

After the stock-market crash of 1987, he starts over with penny stocks on Long Island, and acquires a right-hand man, played with buck-toothed-lapdog geekiness by Jonah Hill. As he clambers up the food chain, Jordan dumps his frowzy ethnic wife in favour of a blond vixen (Pan Am’s Australia-born Margot Robbie) to go with his mansion, sports cars, 137-foot yacht, and all the blow that can be FedExed from Bolivia

In short, Belfort’s a major jerk and you can’t wait to see him taken down. Oh, but wait you do, while watching scene after repetitive scene with the overamped tycoon exhorting his fist-pumping troops to be even more mercenary with the suckers they reel in. These pseudosatirical rallies are staged energetically, complete with naked ladies and flying dwarves. Even as feds close in on the operation, nothing like reflection or insight is offered. Instead, we get long bouts of Quaalude-inspired humour (can there be slow slapstick?) and the principals ad-libbing macho riffs on what we’ve already seen. You walk out wondering who the real suckers are.

Comments (3) Add New Comment
out at night
Ooh, Ken, too bad you didn't understand this movie!

It's as much a classical, Dantean journey of the soul as Casino or Goodfellas, only with a different class of criminal. It's a direct-hit indictment of a group of individuals (the self-professed Masters of the Universe who populate Wall Street) whose venality, rapacious greed and spoiled, frat-boy on a bender behaviour puts them up for grabs for a moralist like Scorcese to take down, and hard! The movie's righteous indignation and fuck you to the 1 per cent bastards who are ruining this planet should be compared to a Hieronymus Bosch painting or a particularly scathing and nasty passage from Naked Lunch, not conventional movies that require us to feel "sympathy" for main characters and other such conventions that have long outworn their usefulness. This is some radical cinema and you thought you were watching a Moo-vee so that's what you're trying to review.
Rating: +5
A. MacInnis
Well, it breaks no new ground (aside from Jonah Hill's penis: first glimpse of a hard-on in a Martin Scorsese film?) but it's no more "thought-free" than Goodfellas or Casino, and that 'lude fight is very, very funny... I truly enjoyed this film and the packed house at Metrotown (on a Sunday!) seemed to feel the same. But then, I just emerged from a few years of skepticism about Scorsese (I hated Shutter Island, was so-so on The Departed, and ignored The Aviator for five years before finally seeing it and loving it). I'm grateful he's still around making movies like this!
Rating: +1
out at night
I thought the 'lude race was high art. You had one entangled and another choking, both on their own excesses, both desperately combating AND rescuing/being rescued by the another. Funny, definitely, but did you dig the meaning? Did you get where this movie is at? Sure, funny scene, but amid the hyucks there is a montage worthy of Godard. Dicaprio wrestling with the phone and its cords is the loacoon!
Rating: -3
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