Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Release Date: December 9th, 2013 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Terence Winter
Based on: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Music by: various
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Jon Bernthal, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Aya Cash, Christine Ebersole, Shea Whigham, Katarina Cas, Stephanie Kurtzuba, P. J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Ethan Suplee, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Belfort (cameo), Spike Jonze (cameo, uncredited)

Sikelia Productions, Appian Way, Red Granite Pictures, 180 Minutes, 145 Minutes (cut version), 240 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I have been a rich man and I have been a poor man. And I choose rich every fuckin’ time. Because, at least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I show up in the back of the limo, wearing a $2000 suit and a $40,000 gold fuckin’ watch.” – Jordan Belfort

Even though I love finance industry movies and the work of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, I didn’t have much urge to see this back when it came out.

Reason being, I read the book and it read like a load of bullshit. Sure, it chronicled a guy’s life but it was so over the top and exaggerated that it read like some narcissistic fantasy where the author was jacking off to his own words about himself.

People then came forth and debunked a lot of the over the top stuff, once the book became popular and everyone was talking about it. The problem with that, was that the movie was already in production and I assumed the script was written and we were going to get the book adapted as-is and not with a dose of reality actually thrown in.

Well, being that I do love finance industry movies, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, I thought, “Fuck it, just watch it to review it.” Plus, I wanted something else to watch after recently revisiting the two Oliver Stone Wall Street movies and the underrated Boiler Room.

I’ve got to say that I was actually impressed by the picture enough that I sort of just turned my brain off and watched this like a normal drama movie and didn’t get fixated on the validity of the source material. At the end of the day, it was an entertaining film that was bolstered by several great performances and the stupendous craftsmanship of Scorsese behind the camera.

Now I can’t say that I liked this as much as 1987’s Wall Street but it is as good as the other great movies that are just beneath it.

In fact, my only real complaint about it was that it was too long. I guess the rough cut was four hours and Scorsese lobbed a whole hour off of it but even then, I felt like a good extra half hour or more could’ve been left out. Granted, I would still watch a four hour Director’s Cut version if Scorsese ever decided to do one. But I think that this beefy story may have actually worked better as a miniseries. I guess you can’t simply throw DiCaprio onto the small screen, though. 

As should be expected, this movie was a beautiful, visual feast. It featured impressive cinematography and even the CGI parts fit well within the overall look of the film. Really, there was just one big CGI sequence when the main characters wrecked their giant yacht at sea.

The film didn’t have a traditional musical score and instead, sprinkled in pop tunes from the years that this film’s story spanned. That was fine with me as it almost went unnoticed.

In the end, I enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street quite a bit. I don’t think it’ll be one of those films I cherish or revisit all that often like Wall Street but it certainly deserves its fanfare.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry films like the two Wall Street movies, The Big Short, Rogue Trader, Boiler Room, etc.

Film Review: The Game (1997)

Release Date: September 3rd, 1997 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Anna Katarina, Mark Boone Junior, Tommy Flanagan, Spike Jonze, Daniel Schorr (cameo)

A&B Producoes Lda., Propaganda Films, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 129 Minutes

Review:

“They just fuck you and they fuck you and they fuck you, and then just when you think it’s all over, that’s when the real fucking starts!” – Conrad

I don’t think that I’ve seen this since the theater but I remembered really liking the hell out of in the ’90s and I had always meant to revisit it because Fincher’s other two ’90s films (not named Alien 3) were pretty much masterpieces.

This one doesn’t live up to the quality and iconic status of Se7en and Fight Club but it is a good filling within the ’90s Fincher cinematic sandwich.

The big selling point for me, at least when this came out, was that it starred Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. The thought of seeing those two great actors together made this picture a “must see” for me. Plus, the trailer intrigued me.

For the most part, this is a thrilling ride where you don’t really see what’s coming and how deep this “game” will go. It gets bigger and more complex with each twist in the plot and it’s a lot of fun, seeing it play out.

The problem with the film, though, is knowing that it’s just a game. Granted, the movie does its damnedest to make you question that and it really pushes the bar in pushing Michael Douglas’ Nicholas over the edge. However, I thought that the big reveal was really obvious, even before I knew the ending. In fact, I thought it was obvious from the trailer but I still was captivated enough to see how far the story would push things.

Overall, the plot doesn’t disappoint but being that so many things are so over the top and elaborate, the picture leaves me with more questions than answers. It would’ve been cool to see how all of this was pulled off but you don’t really get that and just have to accept that this is just the work of powerful pranksters with unlimited funding.

From a visual standpoint, the movie looks good and I’d say it’s less stylized than Fincher’s other movies. I’m not sure if he felt like he needed to be more reserved in that regard or of it was the work of the producers. But out of all Fincher’s movies, this one is the least Fincher-esque, as far as the cinematography goes.

As should be expected, it’s a picture that is superbly acted and the leads are truly great, here.

In the end, this is still fun to watch, even after knowing what the ending would be. As I stated earlier, I knew it was just going to be a game beforehand but that doesn’t make it a bad thriller. The big thrills still work and this is an intense movie that still packs a punch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other David Fincher films of the ’90s that aren’t Alien 3.