The Wolf of Wall Street
Sikilia Productions, Red Granite Pictures et al, US
Release UK: 17th January 2014
DIR Martin Scorsese
EXEC Georgia Kacandes, Alexandra Milchan, Irwin Winkler
PROD Riza Aziz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland, Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
SCR Terence Winter, Jordan Belfort
DP Rodrigo Prieto
CAST Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie
This film really excites me. Martin Scorsese is ‘back’ and more prevalent than ever. Not that he ever really left, his recent films Hugo, Shutter Island, The Departed etc. have all been fantastic and full of Scorsese, but The Wolf of Wall Street truly reverberates the man we love. There are vast swirling sets, sweeping cameras, explosive/implosive characters, assertive narratives told with an expressive pace, brimming bag of laughs and a wicked sense of underlying controversy. Scorsese is truly extraordinary at understanding and communicating his visual language: cinema.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Ray Liotta as Henry Hill at the start of Goodfellas is distinctively comparable to Di Caprio’s Jordan Belfort’s opening confession: “The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.” Both characters can be interpreted as zealous apprentice wise guys. Belfort and Hills’ journeys are strikingly similar, though Belfort is in the stock market as a supercharged salesman on Wall Street and Hill is pursuing ruthless trades with gangsters on the street in Brooklyn. They both learn the ropes early on, initially innocent. This is soon surpassed by a fast rise through the ranks and become fixated with work, drugs and girls. Who would have thought gangsters and brokers would be so alike?
What everything boils down to for Belfort, is tasting the sweet smell of success. But, like most over-their-head entrepreneurs, he can’t get enough of the taste, even when he knows the feds are beginning to tread on his back. Lets talk about Di Caprio’s performance here for a second, mind-blowing. It could be the performance of his career, but that can be said for most Di Caprio performances, he is a great actor. However, as Belfort, Di Caprio has really unleashes a charismatic turn as he swings and swaggers through the frame. He was as invigorating and magnetic as Al Pacino playing Tony Montana in Scarface.
Of course, the soundtrack is entertaining and always tipping and topping and the editing is high-powered and frenetic making all the hustle and bustle seem ten times as ferocious. Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s long-term editing partner, has some interesting comments to say in this February’s issue of Sight & Sound. “Marty’s guiding principle in all his films is to never tell the audience what to think, but to make them engage with what they’re seeing and hearing.” As I touched upon earlier, this is Scorsese letting us engage in his visual language how we see fit, he is a master and commander of visual communication.
There is a particular scene in the film that I wish to note in this heady review. It involves Di Caprio dragging his face along a concrete floor and rolling down a flight of steps, literally. I won’t explain why, but it has to be the most hilarious scene I can ever recall seeing in cinema. “Marty was delighted to see that the actors could all improvise beautifully, and so he made the daring choice to give them lots of freedom to do that.” (Schoonmaker). Most certainly! The improvisation in this film gives it a fresh outlook whilst retaining a remarkably existent presence.
Lastly, it is important to recognize that this film is an absolute rarity for Hollywood. The Wolf of Wall Street should be cherished and watched over and over, with laughs becoming ever greater. It is a bold screwball comedy about the state of America, then and now, and it is, therefore, not your typical Hollywood package. And, neither is a three-hour film where every frame and beat is wild and virile with a lifetime’s accumulated genius.
If this film came out in 2013, it would be side-by-side with the other three-hour epic at my number one spot, Blue is the Warmest Colour. Lets hope there’s something else this year that can match the wolf; I’m looking in your direction 12 Years a Slave.
Watch the trailer below: