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Wolf of Wall Street, The (Blu-ray Review)

21 Mar, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 3/25/14
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Box Office $116.46 million
Rated ‘R’ for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence.
Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Cristin Milioti.

While Martin Scorsese’s films have covered a variety of subjects, he’ll be hard-pressed to shake the association between his career and the portrayal of eccentric mob bosses and various practitioners of organized crime. The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t about gangsters, but it might as well be, transferring the intricate mob schemes seen in some of the director’s best-known movies and translating them to the high-stakes world of the stock market.

The subject for this romp is the real-life exploits of Jordan Belfort, a former stockbroker who was convicted of manipulating the market after earning millions of dollars from trading high-commission penny stocks.

Leonardo DiCaprio turns in one of his best performances as Belfort, relishing the role with a pliability that might surprise even those viewers who already appreciated his talents. DiCaprio’s Belfort is presented as an up-and-comer thrown into a chaotic world, where he quickly learns how to translate his charisma into separating greedy people from their cash.

Belfort’s rise to power attracts several hangers-on, with the most notable being Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill, who completely loses himself in the part. This is actually a natural role for Hill, indulging in his gift for comedy with several scenes that rely almost entirely on improvisation.

The sales team grows quickly, as Belfort’s motivational speeches whipping his lackeys into a frenzy, like a pack of rabid dogs. Soon enough, Belfort and his crew become obsessed with the status of their wealth, as they engage in wild bacchanalias as if their lives were just one big frat party.

Scorsese masterfully molds this material into a wildly entertaining film, overflowing with more than its fair share of foul language, sex and drug abuse.

Belfort’s activities previously served as an inspiration for the 2000 film Boiler Room, recently released as a spiffy new Blu-ray from Warner. But where that film was more of a straightforward, fictionalized drama about one of the rank-and-file brokers, Wolf of Wall Street puts all its attention on comic excesses of the man on top.

Scorsese’s film has also drawn comparisons with Oliver Stone’s 1987 anti-corporate screed Wall Street, and while such an evaluation may be apropos given the subject matter, ultimately I think the films are unique enough to stand on their own.

Wolf of Wall Street seems less interested in exposing how uncontrolled greed can hurt people, and doesn’t bother portraying the effects of Belfort’s manipulations on anyone who could be considered a victim. Rather, the film is more a character study of ambitious people driven by dangerous addictions on a grand scale.

The film demonstrates its premise with amazing efficiency for about the first hour, a kinetic jaunt through the bowels of the financial sector fueled by relentless energy, before starting to drag into a series of misadventures by Jordan Belfort in his efforts to maintain his lifestyle. As a result, the final three-hour running time feels maybe a half-hour too long, but really any final act for this film would have trouble matching the hyperactive pace of how it starts.

The film’s length leaves little room for much else on the Blu-ray, with the only extra being a short featurette about the making of the film.

About the Author: John Latchem

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