Double Team Review: “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

N: Sex, drugs, money. DiCaprio, Hill, and naked women. That pretty much sums up The Wolf of Wall Street. What were your initial thoughts after leaving the theater?

C: As soon as I left, my thoughts were about how much there was to take in. We are talking about a three-hour Martin Scorsese movie here that is Goodfellas for a whole new generation. There is so much greatness that it’s hard to put all your thoughts into a couple of sentences explaining it to someone.

N: I agree there is plenty to take in. It’s an over-the-top adaptation of 100% real life story that is too wild to make up. It’s only fitting that someone like Scorsese brought it to the screen. Along with his Goodfellas approach, the film had plenty of key elements that make a film one of his, including long tracking shots, an insane attention to detail, and splashes of violence that heighten the drama.

C: Oh definitely. There are so many “Scorsese moments” covering this film that it’s hard to escape it, but that is one of the things I love most about it. If I were to walk into this film without knowing who the director is, I would be able to pinpoint it, except probably for just how funny it is.

N: That is definitely worth mentioning. The Wolf of Wall Street is a very, very, very, black comedy, but given the subject matter, it kind of had to be didn’t it? Otherwise we’d be drained after three hours of a man losing himself to money, drugs, and sex. And I don’t mean that in a positive way.

C: Totally. The approach that screenwriter Terence Winter takes is: what would you do if you had so much money that you didn’t know what to do with it? And that plays into the comedy aspect of it.There are plenty of grimly dramatic moments, but it can switch like a light between dark comedy and seriousness which is one of the hardest screenwriting skills.

N:  True. The story is really that of a man who just does whatever the hell he wants with his new found fame and fortune, and it makes you wonder how similar a path you’d lead if you were given the same opportunity. I’m really not going to lie, Winter and Scorsese made doing so many illegal things (prostitution, substance abuse, fraud) look way too fun to not even consider, had I found millions of dollars in the stock market and Jordan Belfort. And with their guidance, and the real Belfort’s source material, Leonardo DiCaprio makes it look even more fun. Who knew I’d ever have the faintest desire to snort coke out of a “escort’s” ass? Who knew…

C: I’m not sure I would go to the extreme of actually doing it, but Scorsese and DiCaprio made it look awesome. There are plenty of those moments, from the office throwing little people at a Velcro target, to flying to Vegas just for a one night party. It made me wish I had as much money as Belfort, but not in the way that it distracted me in a negative light.

N: Yeah, imagine being able to drop $2 million for a bachelor party just to “get it out of your system”. It’s worth mentioning to that DiCaprio manages to make Belfort so much more than an anti-hero. He’s never really the bad guy, in our eyes, and even when he does some terrible things, you’re kind of rooting for him in a weird way. There’s a lot of power in that statement and a big testament to the production for making someone we should all normally despise into a surrogate for our own secret desires.

C: A lot, if not most, of that credit goes to Leonardo DiCaprio who is obviously a chameleon, but this is the best I have ever seen him. This is a guy who has had more than a promising career, but continues to get better and it pays off with flying colors here. DiCaprio’s Belfort is yes, despicable, but you almost envy him with the knowledge that what he’s doing isn’t legal. I think it’s safe to say that DiCaprio is at his best with Scorsese, but this is whole new territory for both of them.

N: It certainly is as I can say I really haven’t seen anything quite like The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s an incredibly unique film and an even lengthier ride. But there’s no one else I’d rather sit beside than those two. As for Leo, I agree that he’s at his absolute best. This is a guy that is universally loved, so seeing him get away with everything just feels… right. I mean, if there is anyone else in the world (next to the real Belfort) that could get away with everything on screen, it’s Leo. It’s the most charismatic we’ve seen him since Catch Me If You Can (with his Frank Abagnale and Belfort having quite a bit in common) and it’s a worthy follow up to last year’s unforgettable performance as Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. Who knew the man could top that?

C: I always felt he would top the despicably wonderful Calvin Candie, but I would have never thought it would be so soon. This is a film that should not go unmentioned as Scorsese’s most vulgar film, but at the same time this is the most sexually charged, coke snorting performance we have seen from DiCaprio. They are breaking much ground from their previous work.

N: It certainly feels like DiCaprio is breaking the ‘mold’ he’s set in the past, given his somewhat clean streak, but it also feels like the natural progression you’d expect in his career. Last year’ Django was a dark, twisted turn for Cap, and this follow up is a worth successor, elevating that sleaze and sharkiness to another level. 

N: While the focus is on DiCaprio in the lead of the film, The Wolf of Wall Street has one massive cast, with many familiar faces you know from TV and other small, small, small roles in the movies, including many actors you’d never expect to see in a Scorsese film, like Rob Reiner, Ethan Suplee, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, and yes, even Jonah Hill. Hell, Belfort’s inner circle consisted of almost entirely no-name actors. There’s a lot to be said about that. What did you think of the cast, while holding off on the Hill discussion for right now.

C: While there are a lot of the supporting cast members that I did not recognize, they all seemed to fit perfectly. They are all characterized by either their nicknames, or just the way they look. There is Ethan Suplee who I know from My Name is Earl, but his character is the “big guy;” P.J. Byrne plays Rugrat who has a terrible hairpiece that makes you laugh every time someone references it; and even Spike Jonze shows up as a pleasant surprise. While you may recognize some of the supporting cast, there’s a perfect amount of newcomers sprinkled here and there making it one of the best film-going experiences of the year for cinema lovers.

N: I also want to mention Kenneth Choi, who plays Chester Ming. He’s popped up in TV shows a lot over the past few years, but he was a strong comedic aspect to the film. I agree that the amount of surprises in the cast alone make for an interesting experience, because you really never know who’s going to show up or what kind of characters we’ll have on screen. Before we talk about the other star of the film, Jonah Hill, it’s worth mentioning that the film has plenty of women stuffed into the mix, with most of them being naked whores willing to show off their entire (and I mean entire) bodies. One of those women, however, is Margot Robbie, who plays Jordan’s wife, Naomi (also known as The Duchess). She’s fierce and overtly sexual, similiar to say, a young Sharon Stone, and is a solid complement to Jordan, as she’s seemingly the only person who can handle him and keep in him check. That being said, I feel the movie is definitely a man’s flick, with none of the women characters really THAT developed or fleshed out (although, there’s plenty of flesh).

C:  We just saw Margot Robbie in About Time a couple of months ago and while she wasn’t that main of a focus for that film, she stood out somewhat. Here with The Wolf of Wall Street it’s obvious she is going places. Sure she’s hot, any male (and some females) who disagrees are lying through their teeth, but the moment you step away from her looks you have one hell of a performance from her, being one of the best this entire year. She pulls off a Long Island accent as good as Scarlett Johansson did in Don Jon, but she also just knew what to bring to the table as Jordan’s wife. It’s obvious she’s there because of his money, but as the film progresses you see that she at least cares about their children and she becomes a complicated character that’s the most developed of all the females in the film.

N: Next to DiCaprio, the other star of the film is Jonah Hill. A comedian known more for his raunchy outings with Judd Apatow than Martin Scorsese, the man impresses as Donnie Azoff, a family man looking to make millions and willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Going into the film, I thought Moneyball would be the only serious dramatic outing we’d see from Hill, but he delivers one hell of a performance in this bad boy, and is most deserving of an Oscar nomination come January. Thoughts?

C: Jonah Hill has been hit-or-miss with me most of the time, but I also thought Moneyball would be his greatest performance. That was until I saw his Donnie Azoff. Hill manages to find a perfect center between comedy and drama with his character, white teeth and all, making one of my favorite characters of the entire year. Every scene he is in shines with humor, which just adds to DiCaprio’s performances. To work with Scorsese is something I never thought I would see Hill doing, but it has happened and I want him to work with no one else. He reminds me very much of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas if he were modernized.

N: I agree, he’s a lot more like Pesci than I was expecting, but with a lot more humor. However, unlike Pesci, who could beat you to a pulp in his fury, Hill seems to be more bark than bite, which is not a bad thing. But yes, Hill is quite incredible and his over-the-top teeth prosthetic just adds another level of sleaze and humor to a character who is far more unlikeable than Leo’s Belfort.

N: We’ve mentioned the tone and the acting, as well as what the film elicits in us and our darkest desires, but what did you think of it from a production standpoint? Minus a few obvious (and unnecessary) uses of green screen, the film had a nice ‘90s finish to it that reminded me of Wall Street meets American Psycho.

C: The production was fantastic, bringing the ‘90s to fruition was a fun aspect of the design to the film. Scorsese has this brightness about The Wolf of Wall Street that doesn’t’t make it as grim as his previous films, and while that has to do with Belfort’s spending habits, there wasn’t a moment in this film that I felt was “ugly.” Even the obvious green screen moments didn’t bug me all that much, although a more practical approach to the helicopter scenes would have made it feel more real. All in all the production is top-notch just adding another layer to the overall cinema experience.

N: The film is definitely lighter than other films from Scorsese, and as we mentioned before, with the comedic tone, the lighter bits of everything make the darker subject matter easier to handle. My issues with the CGI were more on the boat, when Belfort is in Italy, and I kept thinking had they needed to use CGI, it’d look much neater at night. Then again, that would defeat the ‘lighter’ mood Scorsese was trying to set. 

N: Do you think there’s anything from the film that can teach us anything? Besides the fact that having illegal fun looks all too tempting…

C: Honestly, I don’t think Scorsese is trying to teach us anything, but just telling the story of this man who had too much money and how it destroyed his life. It’s more morally sensible as to what would you do with this money if you had it? I have very little sense of the stock market, but this makes me want to learn more about it, not to make money, but just to understand the linguistics of the dialogue more.

N: I guess you’re more morally good than I am, as the film was more of a blueprint to me on how to get away with a whole lot of bad. Not that he gets away with it (which isn’t that much of a spoiler given the opening narration), but the consequences he suffers are nowhere near as drastic as you’d expect given how many terrible things Belfort did in his reign as the King of Long Island. I don’t want to learn as much about the stock market as much as I am curious to know if certain loop holes and what not, have been fixed since the 90s. Otherwise, I may have to take a nice long look into the penny stock business.

N: Seeing as this is going to be the last “award contender” many of us see this year, what are your thoughts on what it should (at least) be nominated for and where does it rank on your favorite films of 2013?

C: I couldn’t imagine this not being nominated for the Big Five: best film, director, lead actor, lead actress, and screenwriter during the Academy Awards. I find it almost impossible. Everyone deserves recognition with this one, not to mention Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker who not only cut an entire hour out of the film, but also trimmed it down from an NC-17 rating to an R one. As for my favorites of the year, it will be making my top 10 without a doubt, and it being in my top 5 is around a 98%. I love it and think it’s as close of a masterpiece of 2013 as there can be.

N: I am definitely curious about the director’s cut that I pray to God we get to see on Blu-ray. While it does clock in at exactly three hours, it never feels that long as it’s packed full of humor and energy to keep things moving at a solid pace. As for awards, I know I will see Leo nominated (he won’t win…again) as well as Hill. As for the more technical awards, I expect Scorsese to get a nod as well as Winter for Adapted Screenplay. If the Academy has the balls to give Best Picture to a film this… vulgar, then more power to them but I don’t see it happening. As for end of the year, it rests high on my ever-changing list.

N: In conclusion, what are your final thoughts on the film? And give us a line you’d put on its poster, as well as your score out of ten.

C: I think this is as fine of a return for who we know as classic Scorsese as there could be. The Departed was his last masterpiece and I think this is right up there. There were a couple of moments where I felt there were minimal pacing problems, but that is expected with a three hour wait time. The quote I would put on the poster would be: “The wolf doesn’t need a pack, this is his street. ” As for my score, I would go with a 9.4 for The Wolf of Wall Street. This is such tightly written and edited cinema perfection that all cinephiles should see.

N:  I think Hugo was a Scorsese masterpiece, but that’s in an entirely different world than Wolf. My final thoughts would be that you need to go into this movie prepared, knowing that it works hard for its hard- R rating. There’s plenty of nudity, more uses of the F-word since Pesci’s days, and a handful of scenes that feature a kind of violence you wouldn’t expect to see from Leo. But damn, does he do a good job at relishing in the bad and you can’t help but so desperately want to go along for the ride. I give it a solid 9.2 out of ten but I know the score may raise once I see the full unedited version. As for the quote for the poster- “Leo wants to get you naked and f*k. You can’t turn him down.”

Nick Overall: 9.2/10
Colin Overall: 9.4/10

Written By Nick

Nick is a man obsessed with all things related to film. From the most obscure to the very popular, he’s seen it all and hopes to one day turn his obsession into a career that makes a lot of money so he can buy a monkey, a bulldog, and a full size Batman suit.

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  • Tom

    Great double-review man. I love Leo obviously, but the real kicker here is that it sounds like Jonah Hill is quite excellent. Can’t wait.

  • Three Rows Back

    Great stuff my friend. I’d heard this was Scorsese’s best for years. The trailer looked excellent and am really stoked for this now.

  • Mark Walker

    Fine work here fellas! It seems like an odd choice of film for Scorsese but I’m intrigued nonetheless.

  • Chris

    Superb stuff guys. I was thinking this could go either way but I’m so glad it’s awesome. Really can’t wait to check it out.

  • jjames36

    That certainly seems very promising. I can’t wait to see it.

  • Thanks! I look forward to hearing what you think.

  • It definitely goes in the much better direction than anything. It’s a lumpy bit of vulgar coal just in time for the holiday.

  • And I mean good coal lol

  • At first it seemed odd, but the similarities to The Goodfellas make you realize how destined he was to direct this film.

  • Definitely up there. The Departed, Hugo, and The Wolf of Wall Street are all grade A flicks in my opinion.

  • He definitely makes the film even more enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised as to how great he is.

  • This was the perfect film for Scorsese to direct, and after you watch it you will realize no one else could have done so well.

  • Shane

    What I love most is you both seemed to love the movie, but get completely different things out of it in the end. I happen to like Nick’s view of this world haha…. I can’t wait to see this.

    Also, have you guys seen Mean Streets? It’s crazy to think Scorsese has been re-inventing his own shit since the early 70’s. I love the man, and think he’s a genius. This review, and you guys talking about multiple “masterpieces” from him makes me want to see it even more.

  • “Mean Streets” is one of his I have not yet seen, but it’s one my list. I guarantee “The Wolf of Wall Street” will be looked on as one of his best in 10 years. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts, Shane!

  • Shane

    Young and out of control De Niro, and Scorsese does a fight scene in a pool hall with one long shot. It’s not a masterpiece, but worth checking out at some point.

  • I really felt as if there should be a comment from me.

  • fernandorafael_c2c

    Great review, guys! I can’t wait for this one!

  • Pingback: (Vivek) Top Ten Best Films of 2013 | Listing the Reasons We Love the Movies()

  • 70srichard

    In a dissenting opinion, it was redundant, poorly paced (hitting the gas pedal for three hours straight is not a good use of timing), and pretty much pointless. I know I will be in the minority on this but sometimes the Emperor is just naked.

  • Rodney

    I’m glad, because I worried there might not be…. 😉

  • Rodney

    It only makes sense that film with so much sex, drugs and vulgarity would be reviewed “double team” style…. I mean, c’mon….

  • Haha

  • Really great review guys. Agree with comparing Jonah Hill and Joe Pesci in there roles. I think this movie was made to look at our own lives when it comes to money. I felt like the movies was consitantly asking me would I do those things if I had a lot of money

  • Dan

    Great review guys. A fun read! DiCaprio and Scorsese for Oscar WINS then?