Friday, 7 February 2014


Directed by Martin Scorsese


Martin Scorsese can do whatever he wants these days, but let’s consider this: the man hasn’t made a truly great (no-questions-asked great) film since The Aviator. And that was in 2004. It’s all part of an ongoing, dangerously soulless phase: Shutter Island was Scorsese getting technical about Dennis Lehane’s novel, Hugo was Scorsese getting technical about 3D, and The Wolf Of Wall Street is Scorsese getting technical about entertainment. If anything – he’s good at all those things.

It’s just that inside there is void.

The man knows how to entertain, and in that respect The Wolf Of Wall Street is value for money . After the slick and dreary Hugo, we get this welcome adrenaline rush of clever bullshit. The box office is incredible, the cinemas are overcrowded, the critics are happy or at the very least hilariously outraged, and in the course of three whopping hours Scorsese never lets go for one second. Golden Globe saw it as a comedy movie, which almost makes sense. It’s not so much funny (unless you will laugh at the scene where DiCaprio snorts cocaine out of a hooker’s butthole) as great fun.

Overall, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a rather banal proposition: Martin Scorsese making a big movie about money (all based on Jordan Belfort’s equally opulent memoir), swindles and corruption, drugs and extravagance, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the main role. I don’t even know how I feel about seeing DiCaprio in yet another Scorsese film. Don’t get me wrong though. If someone somewhere still thinks DiCaprio isn’t a great actor, I’ll be the first in line to protest. He is a terrific actor, and he is terrific in this film (actually a ‘movie’; this is where Aldous Huxley’s talkie-feelie-movie snobbery should be dropped). I just think Scorsese should stop casting him with such a blinding, unimaginative consistency. It’s getting formulaic.

DiCaprio is the main guy: the Wall Street wolf who is actually a little too likable for someone of that sort. Then there’s Matthew McConaughey (who is always good) as the mentor, there’s Jonah Hill (whose role is mostly reduced to getting stoned and pissed) as the friend and there’s Margot Robbie (obscenely seductive, of course) as the girl. The acting is impeccable, you definitely can’t fault that. Nor can you fault the brilliant scene where DiCaprio’s character has to crawl after a particularly bad overdose. Nor any other scene for that matter. The drugs are used, the money is swindled, the girls are shagged – what’s not to like. Well, maybe the fact that it gets a little too repetitive after a while? Or the fact that it feels oh so derivative and secondary for a director with that filmography? That Scorsese doesn’t have anything to say – past what he said so effectively back in 1990? 

The bottom line then. Immoral, profane, vulgar – but in a rather intelligent way. For all its flatulent and fatuous self-indulgence ,  it’s actually a masterful work. A pale shadow of Goodfellas – granted. Bloated and empty. All the same – The Wolf Of Wall Street is as close as you can get to wasting three hours on something that is actually really bloody good. After all (if you don’t mind a little blasphemy), wasn’t Citizen Kane that too? Bloated and completely empty?.. 

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