The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street ★★★★½

2013 Ranked, #3
December Challenge #26

Culled from the same blood that fueled GOODFELLAS and CASINO, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET pounces for 3 straight hours like a feral animal, embracing its ambition and meanness with a wry smirk. It's a successfully daunting release that feels immense, but never tiring. Its tremendous cavalcade of decadence filtered through depravity stammers only in its fallout. We are guided through the scenes by Dicaprio's Belfort himself, never viewing the wreckage in his wake. As a statement on the corruption of wealth, binged excess, and enormity, Scorsese succeeds in shining a light on the worst of the worst; unfortunately, this approach may inadvertently inspire people to view Belfort as an idol.

Essential to the film is its persistent comedy, with Jonah Hill delivering an ideal supporting performance and maximizing his effect. Caterwauling off of Quaaludes, cocaine, and countless other illicit substances, he and Leo's exploits are hilarious and scary. The soon-to-be famous Lemmon 714 scenes are the best example of this, while the multitude of stripper and hooker scenes reinforce it. Additionally, Belfort's entourage is just as strong, comically; from the start, amassing a pack of low-lives in his crusade provides ample room for signature Scorsese-ian montages.

As the wealth expands, and the first Forbes article is published, the film explodes just as Belfort's image does. The budding empire seemingly erupts, looking to seize anything and everything. The inclusion of the furiously temperamental elder Belfort and the beautiful Margot Robbie are definite benefits. It's as if the beast is at the height of its powers here, and the aura of luxury is sweeping and all-encompassing, with its inherent cruelty and savagery retained.

Overarchingly, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a ride intent on buffeting the screen with its prowess of exuberance, while also sneaking peeks into its decidedly uncomfortable, manic underbelly. In Dicaprio's most powerful monologues, he echoes the frenetic passion of both De Niro and Pacino before him, and then can lower the intensity with his boyish looks and blue eyes. He excels in the personification of scum, never seeming or trying to make Belfort look like anything better than the filth his own reputation had joyously earned him.

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