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Man's Depravity Knows No Bounds in The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2013 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
Man's Depravity Knows No Bounds in <i>The Wolf of Wall Street</i>

DVD Release Date: March 25, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2013
Rating: R (for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence)
Genre: Biography/Crime/Drama
Run Time: 180 min.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner

Editor’s Note: This review contains frank discussion of mature subject matter. Parents, please be advised and refer to our Cautions section below.

In true Martin Scorsese fashion, The Wolf of Wall Street is yet another demented tale about Man at his most dark and depraved.

Following in the grand tradition of The Departed, Shutter Island and Gangs of New York, The Wolf of Wall Street is also in desperate need of a good editor. Trouble is, if someone had actually bothered trimming the proverbial fat, there wouldn’t be much of a movie left.

Taking self-indulgence to an entirely new level (and no, that’s not a compliment), what remains is a soulless, revolting and wildly unfocused celebration of excess where nobody wins by watching.

No doubt, sometimes much can be learned from tales of men with severely misplaced priorities, but The Wolf of Wall Street isn't interested in serving as a morbid cautionary tale or even posing any meaningful questions. Even Gordon Gecko had brief moments of reflection while making his millions, but Scorsese apparently has no need for shades of gray here.

A big-budget affair that ends up coming across as a surprisingly rudimentary rag to riches story, Scorsese’s go-to leading man DiCaprio plays real-life stockbroker-turned-motivational-speaker Jordan Belfort. Before Belfort started making his millions by tricking cash-challenged folks into investing in worthless penny stocks, he was just another wide-eyed, wannabe Wall Street success story. Jordan believed if he just worked hard enough while learning the business, well, he’d be on the fast track to worldly wealth.

Of course, his naïve assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth, and Jordan’s first day on the job was revelatory to say the least. After being labeled "pond scum" by his boss on the first day of his entry level Wall Street gig, his boss's boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club) almost immediately takes a liking to the rookie's ambition and invites him to lunch.

Over a meal of martinis (and nothing else), he tells Jordan the secret to success: to rule the world, you have to forget about people altogether, take all you can and use the maximum amount of drugs and hookers just to make it through the day.

Needless to say, Jordan was a quick study. And just in case you didn't already get the sense that Jordan was a money-grubbing jerk, he looks straight at the camera and confirms the viewer's suspicions in a series of annoying voiceovers. Like the rest of the movie, Belfort's braggadocio wears thin in a hurry, and it's impossible to feel sorry for him when the party's over—not that the punishment will fit the crime, mind you.

Because once Scorsese inevitably switches from telling us how depraved Jordan is to showing us, you're left wishing he would've stuck with the voiceovers. In the course of three hours, every sort of debauchery is shown in gory, excessive detail. It's as if the filmmakers took it as a personal challenge to keep one-upping themselves in the nastiness department. From endless scenes of drug use to the de-valuing of women in more ways than we have room to list, The Wolf of Wall Street is never as clever or epic as it likes to think it is.

The Wolf of Wall Street often feels like a less effective re-telling of The Great Gatsby, which DiCaprio did such a great job with earlier this year. As the man who seemingly has everything (worldly wealth, an endless supply of willing suitors and a legion of friends so devoted they speak his praises even though he's a total creep), Gatsby, messed up and all, still gave the audience someone to root for. Plus, F. Scott Fitzgerald actually knew his way around a sentence, an elegance the screenplay in Wolf is sorely lacking.

But more than anything, what's missing from The Wolf of Wall Street is a conscience, a crack of light in this dismal affair. If you're going to justify showing such deplorable behavior, you'd better have a compelling reason for it. Unfortunately, Scorsese seems content just stumbling in the dark.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Sex/Nudity: Crude jokes involving bodily functions and various sexual acts are present throughout, and the number of graphic sex scenes in Wolf of Wall Street are well into the double digits. The majority of these sequences feature graphic nudity (including more fully nude women with breasts and lower regions exposed to count, male rear nudity, etc.) and very realistic portrayals of sex of all kinds—oral and anal relations included. Sex with prostitutes and with multiple partners at the same time is regularly shown in the film, and illegal drugs often make their way into sexual situations as well with Jordan sniffing cocaine off a prostitute’s bare behind in one scene and another woman’s breasts later on. A woman walks into an orgy of gay men who are all naked and engaging in various homosexual acts. A man is also shown masturbating at an office party (his erect penis is briefly shown). While Jordan is fully naked, he gives himself an enema with a candle.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: There’s rarely a scene where drugs or alcohol aren’t abused. Jordan and his fellow co-workers are shown doing everything from crack to cocaine to copious amounts of prescription medicine and Quaaludes.
  • Language/Profanity: There’s profanity in abundance with fu— (and its many variations) used the most frequently. There are also racial epithets, several instances where middle fingers are extended and multiple misuses of God’s name.
  • Violence: A man nearly dies in dramatic fashion but is eventually revived. During an interrogation, a man is brutally punched (we see blood everywhere from the injury to his nose) and later on, the same man is beaten by police. A scary night on the water almost leads to several people drowning.

Publication date: December 25, 2013