The Big Screen

The Big Screen: “Wolf” blows down the house

February 7, 2014 

As the Academy Awards creep closer, I’m determined to watch and review all nine Best Picture nominees. Five weeks and five films (“Captain Phillips,” ‘Dallas Buyers Club,” “Nebraska, “Philomena” and “The Wolf of Wall Street) – fingers crossed.

Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf” comes at you like a head-on collision and marks his most creative and raucous film to date. In the vein of “Goodfellas“ and “Casino,” the story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one of insatiable greed, with guns and mob bosses replaced with stocks and day traders. There is, however, no absence of drugs, prostitutes or the occasional burst of violence. This is Scorsese; if you’re looking for something friendly go to the next theater over and watch “Ride Along.”

Belfort begins as a naive but talented broker who starts out selling penny stocks in an old warehouse on Long Island before founding Stratton Oakmont, a firm that sells the same scams in a nicer office. He works and plays with his best pal Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill explodes onscreen and turns in the film’s finest performance). They never skip on any extravagance, whether it be narcotics, girls, cars or mansions. Their appetites are grandiose and their shameless excesses eventually rouse the attention of the feds.

DiCaprio plays a guy who is as charming as he is morally empty. His performance is loud, and the amount of energy he pumps into every scene is nothing short of unbelievable. Hill delivers a star-making performance, not even his most adamant critics can deny that his performance is sheer perfection. Azoff is a clown, but Hill never allows his character to become a caricature.

Scorsese’s movie is just as extravagant as his protagonists. It is amazing to watch a director continue to push the limits after 45 years of work; whether it’s DiCaprio talking directly to the camera, an actor bumping into the screen or the numerous improvised scenes. This Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with his muse Leo and together it’s their most unhinged.

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