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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/25/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/24/2014
I don't know what things are like in other countries, but in the United States, people are obsessed with stories about the rich and powerful. For decades, television shows like Dallas and Revenge have been popular, not to mention reality shows such as The Real Housewives of... (seriously, don't mention them). Even during The Great Depression, movies concerning wealthy characters were in demand. This trend continues today, but we do often like to see a little moral comeuppance in the story. In other words, we want to see how the other half lives, as long as they don't live happily. Thus is the case in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, here played by Leonard DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street opens with the young man arriving on Wall Street in his early 20s. After paying his dues answering phones, Jordan becomes a stock broker and begins trading shares. However, on his first day of work, the market crashes and he loses his job. Jordan finds work at a fly-by-night agency which is selling penny stocks. Using his natural ability to hustle, Jordan soon becomes a whiz at getting people to invest in worthless companies. He then opens his open office, and hires his friends, including Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), to work for him. Soon, these young men are pulling in an amazing amount of money and the small company grows into a legitimate business. Of course, legitimate is stretching it, as Jordan and his staff constantly make deals which fall outside of the law. As FBI agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins to sniff around the agency, Jordan concocts a plan to protect his money.
The Wolf of Wall Street comes from legendary director Martin Scorsese, and I know that it's a sin to say this in the film criticism world, but I'm not a fan. One reason is that I simply don't like the subject matter of many of his movies. Secondly, of the ones that I've seen, none have been very impressive, as I feel that Scorsese sometimes stumbles as a story-teller. (Again, blasphemy.) However, one thing must be said in Scorsese's defense -- his movies don't look like they were directed by a 71-year old. The Wolf of Wall Street features the kind of moving camera and kinetic action photography which one would expect from a much younger director. As this is essentially a movie about the world of finance, it could have been shot in a very static way, but Scorsese certainly brings the story to life.
This is good because he hasn't done a very good job of editing the film. Everything that you've heard is true -- The Wolf of Wall Street is three-hours long. To its credit, some moments do move along nicely and provide some excitement. However, there are several scenes which simply drag on and one wonders if Scorsese was simply aiming at an even 3 hours. Most of these scenes do little to advance the plot, they are more about exploring the characters. However, I knew from the get-go that everyone here was a scumbag, so I really don't need for a dialogue scene to go on and on to drive that point home.
Fortunately for The Wolf of Wall Street, the story is captivating and thus, the film is worth seeing. I've watched many "based on a true story" films lately and I say the same thing about each one -- they need a pop-up video with "This actually happened" during the film so we're aware of when artistic license is being taken. There are many, many such scenes here, as we watch Jordan and his cronies lead lives fueled by greed, sex, and drugs. We've all heard stories of the amount of money made on Wall Street, but Jordan took the depravity caused by such riches to an extreme. Scorsese does a good job of showing both sides of the coin here without getting preachy. Yes, Jordan is rich and has everything which he could want. But, he's also a hopeless addict whose reckless behavior costs everyone around him. He finds that life with his trophy wife (Margot Robbie) isn't perfect, especially when his money is in danger. I've always found DiCaprio to be overrated, but he is very believable as the smug Jordan -- this is the part that he was born to play.
The Wolf of Wall Street works because it is an unflinching look of the greed and corruption which exists in American business. And when I say "unflinching", I mean that this is definitely an R-rated movie and those coming here simply to see Leo may be shocked by what they find. The movie is undoubtedly bloated and long, but the shenanigans on display, which are certainly mind-bending at times, make it worth checking out.
The Wolf of Wall Street makes it home without a scratch on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. (There is a nice use of pastels at times.) The picture shows a nice amount of depth and the level of detail is very impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 30 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film features a great mix and we get a nice amount of notable stereo and surround sound effects here. The stereo effects show a nice amount of separation and things move nicely from back to front and side to side. There are also some nice examples of subwoofer effects.
The lone (wolf) extra on The Wolf of Wall Street Blu-ray Disc is "The Wolf Pack" (17 minutes). This featurette examines the making of the film, beginning with DiCaprio describing his desire to bring this story to the screen. We hear from Scorsese, the production team, and the cast. There is an examination of Scorsese's style and his approach to the material, while the actors describe their characters. What we don't get is a lot of detail about how close to reality the movie is or any footage/photos of the real people.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long