The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

If you're like me, you'll laugh your ass off to The Wolf of Wall Street for a full two hours and then suddenly become confused trying to figure out what it's trying to achieve. It ends on an anticlimactic note that makes you feel like there's nothing to take home aside from the leftover acid taste in your mouth. Maybe it's some kind of anomaly that could be fixed by a second viewing, but there's no way I'm spending that much time in the dark with these people. They creep me out.


I sure as hell wasn’t expecting this year’s best comedy going in.

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I’m baffled by these opening shots. Is this Martin Scorsese directing? I mean, for real? We got midgets flying, coke sniffing from asses, and all that jazz you usually find in Michael Bay movies. It feels like America’s darling director got a nice dose of steroids shot straight up his ass before printing each of these shots to film.

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It’s getting tough to hide my giant hard-on for Matthew McConaughey’s work. Mud was fantastic, as was his crazy turn in Magic Mike. Now, he delivers us Mark Hanna, one heck of a character. He almost convinces us that jerking off twice a day is a required exercise on Wall Street, as crass as this may sound. As for the chest-pounding hymn to get the juices flowing? The bit is even funnier in the movie than in the trailer.

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I’m a sucker for these types of montages. Whenever a main character goes on a mission to form a crew of some sorts, I get a sudden smile on my face. In this case, seeing Belfort shape a band of crass characters into surprisingly efficient brokers entertained me to no end. My biggest surprise was seeing Jon Bernthal as Brad, with his standout perfect comedic timing. It’s a shock to see him this efficient after a few seasons of underwhelming acting on The Walking Dead.

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Here’s what was missing so far: wacky Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff, whom we meet in one of the funniest scenes this year. You just know this guy will be going all jellyfish over Jordan Belfort for the rest of his life. Hill plays it creepy, borderline crazy, and it’s a nice surprise to see him bring his brand of improvisational skills to the game.

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It almost seems like Martin Scorsese wanted to give Leonardo DiCaprio his own little sandbox to play in during the middle part of the movie. He’s given so many cool jokes, cinematic moments, cool songs to riff on, witty dialogue, and incredible actors to play with that you can’t help but marvel at his range. I’ll admit to being a part-time hater of his, but this movie, paired with 2010’s Shutter Island, made me a fan. Now if only Johnny Depp would go back to taking these kind of risks, it would usher a nice rivalry between the two. In my head.

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Oh, great. Just when I thought this movie had delivered its whole range of cool actors, Kyle Chandler comes in from nowhere to deliver a remarkable verbal jab fest with DiCaprio. What’s so great about their conversation is that you never now where it’s truly going. We’re so used to seeing despicable beings hanging out on the silver screen that he might as well be one of them. Chandler wins the round, which prompts DiCaprio to throw lobsters around. I liked this a lot.

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Quaaludes have been nice to this movie so far. They have offered Hill incredibly funny scenes of inappropriate sexual behavior and a few amusing musical moments. But this scene takes the lemon cake: the drugs kick in about an hour too late to make way for incredibly funny moments involving physical humor, ranging from DiCaprio crawling on the floor to Popeye references. This is as entertaining as it gets.

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We slowly enter the landing phase of this movie with a couple of yawn-inducing scenes. The boat accident, for example, seemed a bit too crazy for my taste. I didn’t take the gut punch to Margot Robbie well either. Of course, we could have anticipated the downfall of everyone involved. It’s just that the events were treated as comedy for a full two hours before bringing us back to the harsh realities of dealing with drugs and stealing from people for a living. By the time the movie calls back to a forgettable scene about pen selling, you just know the screenwriters were kind of pissed Belfort wasn’t dead to justify this momentum halt. 

3 Comments on The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

  1. I like your review, but I took away something really different, I think. Well; in truth, I’m not sure what I took away from this. I feel that, as well-written, directed, and acted as this movie was, it fundamentally failed at what it was trying to do.

    This movie was clearly attempting to portray the grandeur and decadence of Wall Street, before turning it into a morality tale about the perils of greed. Except the grandeur wasn’t so much grand as farcical and self-absorbed. Di Caprio has charm, but it’s clearly the charm of a psychopath. His lifestyle is so absurd that there is no aspect of it that invites us to fantasize about it.

    So when his downfall comes, it’s hard to even feel Schadenfreude. It’s just what he had coming to him, and he doesn’t even get it that hard. He kinda gets away with it, so there’s nothing left to be said. It’s just a jackass who almost got away with it all, then kinda does.

    A well-made film, with some very memorable scenes; in its individual components it’s masterfully made, but I can’t shake the impression that overall it’s at least a partial failure.

    • I’ve thought about this movie a lot since I saw it and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no way to analyze it in this decade. Something tells me we’ll understand its goals better as years go by.

      However, I’m pretty sure our reactions were similar: I was (and still am) basically confused. Maybe it’s because it failed or maybe it’s because the structure feels familiar while still offering unexpected turns.

      Either way, seeing that it ignited such passion and division, I can see the makers being very proud of the reaction.

      • Yeah, I agree with you. I was thinking that I can’t decide if I liked it or not. Which means it was pretty unique and thought-provoking. Which means it was good at what it does, and I’m just not sure what that was.

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