Monday, February 17, 2014

‘Wolf’ prowls on audiences’ morals

   On Christmas Day director Martin Scorsese (“Taxi Driver,”“Goodfellas,”“The Departed”) graced the screen with the least graceful film in recent memory. “The Wolf of Wall Street”delves into the money, drug, and sex-obsessed mind of Jordan Belfort (played Leonardo DiCaprio), a real life stock swindler who scammed over a billion dollars in the 1990’s. The movie has garnered praise from critics and the public. In January, “Wolf”picked up two nominations at the Golden Globes, where DiCaprio pulled in a win for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical. It is also currently nominated for five Oscars, three of which are in major categories.

   “Wolf,” thriving in its lack of morals, follows Belfort from the beginning of his days in Wall Street into his years of wealth and prosperity that eventually resulted in imprisonment, divorce, and forced compensation for those involved in the fraudulent schemes. Acting alongside DiCaprio is Jonah Hill as the clueless Donnie Azoff who creates more problems for Belfort than solutions. Other notable performers include Margot Robbie who plays the trophy-wife “Duchess of Bay Ridge,” and Matthew McConaugheywhose visceral opening cameo creates an undeniably hilarious mood for the rest of the film.

   However, the standout is DiCaprio in what might be the greatest performance of his career. His comedic timing is perfection along with his deep understanding of Belfort’s persona. But DiCaprio really shines in the final moments of “Wolf,” which transforms into a much more serious look into the hollow lives of the individual. The risky performance has garnered DiCaprio with endless praise from critics, multiple awards, and a Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Oscar nomination in what is being viewed as the most demanding category of the year.

   What brings the film to life is Scorsese’s masterful direction. Scenes are expertly crafted, brilliantly captured, and flow in the skillful manner that only a master of the medium could create. “Wolf”draws heavy inspiration from former Scorsese films such as “Goodfellas” and “Casino” in terms of editing which determines the flow of any film. It’s also appropriate that “Wolf” depicts the rise and fall of a powerful man in dangerous circumstances which is a staple of Scorsese’s work. In terms of legacy, “Wolf” won’t go down as the best Scorsese film, but it will certainly be among the best.

   Despite the incessant praise, controversy has surrounded the content on display in “Wolf.” Criticism extended from a number of critics for the lack of ethics on display, constant use of illegal drugs, gratuitous sex scenes, and the record 506 “f-words” during the three-hour runtime. However, it’s clear that any critic of these particular attributes is ignorant to Scorsese’s previous work. At the time of its release “The Last Temptation of Christ” famously garnered innumerable complaints for the “freedom” it took with the Biblical narrative and the violence and nudity that encompassed it.

   Is “Wolf” a recommended watch for everyone? No. Unless you’re capable of leaving your morals at the door and spending three hours wrapped up in the drug-addled mind of a narcissistic criminal, this one probably isn’t for you. However, if you appreciate satire and can respect how well made the film is, “Wolf” will assuredly meet whatever expectations you have set for it.

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