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THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin
Director: Martin Scorsese
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 179 Minutes
Release Date: March 25, 2014

When you sail on a boat fit for a Bond villain, sometimes you need to play the part, right?”

Film ****

It’s such a rarity these days for any movie to live up to any sort of hype. The Wolf of Wall Street, which marks the fifth film collaboration between legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese and the always magnificent Leonardo DiCaprio, happened to have one of the most engaging and brilliant trailers in a long time. Even though it’s pretty much impossible to expect anything less than good from Scorsese, I was certainly hoping the film itself would match the explosiveness promised in the trailer.

Not only did the film exceed expectations, but it wound up being my top favorite film of 2013. Although I do feel somewhat guilty of naming any film greater than 12 Years a Slave, this film got the top ranking for me because like GoodFellas, Casino and The Departed, the film delivers an effect of pure exhilaration that a film lover can only get from a filmmaker of Scorsese’s caliber. How many director’s are capable of making a three hour film fly by faster than most 90 minutes pieces, which Scorsese has now done twice!

And in terms of depicting a life of excess, this film has officially set the standard. By bringing to the screen the life of self made millionaire broker Jordan Belfort, whose book served as the basis for the film, Scorsese has managed to unleash the most insane amount of drug use, sex and other extremes to be seen in a single film in, well possibly ever. It might be too much for the average viewer to handle, but Scorsese being the smart filmmaker he is, decided rightfully that the best way to illustrate one man’s excessive lifestyle was to not hold anything back whatsoever.

Once again applying his trademark GoodFellas/Casino technique of intriguing voice over narration, backed up by unbeatable catalog of music on the soundtrack, Scorsese executes pure filmmaking brilliance in the rags to extreme riches account of Belfort (DiCaprio). He arrived on Wall Street in his early 20s with the same desire as any other yuppie at the time, to become filthy rich. Unfortunately after getting his foot in the door at a broker firm, and being shown the ropes by senior broker Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, in a mesmerizing bit role), Belfort is forced to start over in the wake of the unexpected 1987 crash known as Black Monday.

But he rebounds in the financial market very soon after taking up a job selling penny stocks to unsuspecting clients. His knack for convincing any and every client over the phone to invest in truly questionable companies impresses all of the fellow office workers to the point that they pretty much see him as a rock god almost instantly. Before long, he rents out an abandoned auto body shop and sets up his very own broker firm called Stratton Oakmont.

He recruits several of his office co-workers, as well as some friends from his home town and a new acquaintance named Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), to target the wealthiest one percent of Americans. By supplying them with a sales script, Belfort has his new broker team selling legit stocks to clients before eventually pitching the penny stocks, upon which the brokers pocket all the cash. As time goes on, cash rolls in, Belfort moves his empire into bigger offices and everyone associated with Stratton Oakmont is thriving hugely!

And with that comes a never ending cycle of partying, drugs, alcohol, drugs, strippers, drugs, prostitutes and drugs. Money, of course, is Belfort’s primary addiction, but that triggers addictions to all the aforementioned items. In fact, this movie does have something of a surprising twist...in that Belfort did enough drugs to satisfy two and a half Charlie Sheens and is alive to this day.

Even as he is making piles of money day in and day out, marries a true goddess in the form of the beautiful Naomi (Margot Robbie), is able to afford the most expensive cars, a luxurious yacht and acquire one of the most expensive pieces of real estate on record...more is never enough for Jordan. His extravagant activity also triggers the interest of the FBI, in particular a straight arrow agent named Denham (Kyle Chandler), who has been onto Jordan since he first made his mark with Stratton. In one of the film’s most outstanding moments, Belfort invites the agent on board his boat in a friendly manner before attempting to initiate a bribe in a most subtle manner.  If you are trying to find a similar yacht, you can find Viking yachts for sale online that might match what you are looking for. Unfortunately most cannot afford the costs of owning a yacht and instead would have to settle for a cruise vacation to enjoy a week at sea.

In a time where too many movies feel way too safe, leave it to Scorsese to boldly make a film that dares to be on the dangerous side. Apart from the fact that this film now holds the record for the most F-bombs in any movie (over 500 to be more precise), it’s hard to recall another mainstream studio release that comes close to NC-17 territory with the amount of sex and nudity on hand (although some of which is played for comedic effect). Rumor has it that Scorsese initial rough cut of the film is four hours long, and it may see the light of day in the near future, which definitely means we will be in store for even more debauchery.

What more can be said about the phenomenal acting in this film? For Leonardo DiCaprio, this is crowning acting achievement, which is saying a lot given how many great performances he’s given in the past decade. Never before has this brilliant actor committed to a character more effectively. As much as I admired Matthew McConaughey’s work in Dallas Buyers Club, Leo was extremely robbed of the Best Actor oscar this year, and not because he’s been long-deserving of the award for some time now, but because it was a true phenomenal piece of film acting.

And what a supporting cast to boot. Did anyone think five years ago that Jonah Hill would even be appearing in a Scorsese film? Known mainly for his comedic chops, Hill remains a hilarious force in this film while establishing amazing range with his role here. And additional work from Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights as the pursuing fed, Rob Reiner as Jordan’s put upon dad, Margot Robbie (in a star making turn) as Jordan’s at first happy but soon suffering wife and Oscar winner Jean Dujardin as a Swiss banker Jordan eventually deals with result in one of the absolute best ensembles of any year!

What’s more, from a technical standpoint this Scorsese firing on all cylinders. Always a master of camera movement and scene cutting, Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker have once again constructed a cinematic piece that is alive at every second. I’m actually astounded how the editing and cinematography for this film were ignored at this year’s oscars. They wouldn’t have won in either department, but the acknowledgment is still incredibly deserved.

The Wolf of Wall Street is yet another masterwork from one of the living legends of filmmaking, and is very much the best film of 2013!

Video ****

This is a top-notch Blu-ray presentation from Paramount. The film boasts a lively, richly colored look to it, and the 1080p enhances that quality to full effect. The flawless camera work throughout the film shows off tremendously well, too! Colors, of course, look nothing short of magnificent and image detail is at its highest form! Certainly one of the best looking releases of the year!

Audio ***1/2

Though it is mainly a dialogue-heavy film, it is a Scorsese film, which of course means a fantastic soundtrack lineup featuring the likes of Bo Diddley, Howlin Wolf, Billy Joel, Malcolm McLaren and many more. Music backs up nearly every scene in this three hour film, and the DTS HD mix takes full advantage of every song. Dialogue delivery is handled thoroughly terrific, as expected!

Features *1/2

Sadly, only one extra exists in the form of a featurette titled, “The Wolf Pack”, which runs close to 20 mins in length and features interviews with Scorsese, DiCaprio and numerous cast and crew members. We can only hope that an extended cut release will surface soon in the future with many more extras to spare.

Summary:

The Wolf of Wall Street is an enthralling and draining film experience as only the great Martin Scorsese can deliver. His exuberant filmmaking combined with Leonardo DiCaprio’s monumental lead performance add up to what has to be the most effective film depiction of excess to date! It truly does illustrate purely great cinema on an extreme level!

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