The Wolf of Wall Street movie poster
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The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street movie poster

The Wolf of Wall Street Movie Review

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Awesome. Simply awesome. Those are the words that raced through my mind as I watched the craziness director Martin Scorsese was throwing at me with The Wolf of Wall Street. And then the movie kept going.

The Wolf of Wall Street is an extremely good movie. Featuring yet another impressive performance by Leonardo DiCaprio that is all but assured to go overlooked by Oscar voters because it's Leonardo DiCaprio and a loopy, so-absurd-it-can-only-be-true-because-it-is story that is masterfully assembled by Mr. Eyebrows, the movie is one of the best of the year.

And for the first two hours, as I watched and laughed and shook my head at the crazy stuff that was happening on screen (the first scene involves a Velcro-laden dwarf being thrown at a target as crazed stockbrokers scream in delight, and that is one of the tamer moments), I believed that this was the one. This, perhaps, was the best movie of 2013.

But The Wolf of Wall Street has just enough problems to keep it from being a masterpiece:

  1. The movie is unnecessarily long, which makes me wonder why Scorsese had such a hard time trimming it down to three hours. The story, about the rise and eventual fall of morally questionable stockbroker Jordan Belfort, is fascinating, but much of his life is window dressing. Scorsese makes the window dressing a blast, but couldn't the man's life story have been told quicker?
  2. Scorsese fails to convert the film's kinetic energy into something more when things get serious. The Wolf of Wall Street is ridiculously entertaining for a long time as he winds through the drug-and-sex-fueled life of his protagonist, but when the poop hits the fan, and the crazy antics fade away, the story sags. Not a ton, but just enough to be let down.
  3. The movie lacks characters you care about. Maybe this wouldn't be a problem if bullet #2 wasn't, or maybe bullet #2 is a symptom of this issue, but ultimately, The Wolf of Wall Street is about a set of greedy, nearly psychotic and often idiotic people who took advantage of others. When stuff gets serious, it's hard to care for Belfort, primarily because it's hard to imagine him ever feeling remorse for his victims. His wife, his associations and even the FBI agent who takes him down aren't much better.

Despite these flaws, The Wolf of Wall Street has many things going for it. It has several incredibly memorable scenes, most notably an entertaining drug trip sequence that has DiCaprio attempting to get home as he loses control of all motor function. Its satire of Wall Street excess is hilarious. And in many ways, it is one of Scorsese's most ambitious movies.

The acting is superb. DiCaprio is terrific, but he is almost overshadowed by his supporting cast. Jonah Hill is phenomenal as his buck-toothed right-hand man Donnie Azoff and could very well earn himself another Oscar nomination (go figure!). Margot Robbie is both a head turner and scene stealer as Belfort's sexy, manipulative wife. And Matthew McConaughey is terrific, despite having very little screen time.

The Wolf of Wall Street is an extremely good movie. But for a while it was downright awesome, so for it to fall just short of that, just short of being a masterpiece, is a shame.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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