The Wolf of Wall Street follows Leonard DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort as he ascends the ranks within the financial sector to eventually become a Gordon Gekko-like power player, with the movie detailing the character’s exploits alongside a cast of unabashedly off-kilter supporting characters – including Jonah Hill’s Donnie, Margot Robbie’s Naomi, and Jon Bernthal’s Brad. It’s clear immediately that The Wolf of Wall Street marks a significant departure for filmmaker Martin Scorsese, as the movie boasts a freewheeling, lighthearted feel that one doesn’t naturally associate with the venerable director – with the gleefully over-the-top atmosphere, which is reflected in everything from the performances to the dialogue to the visuals, ensuring that the movie is, at the outset, as watchable and engrossing as anything Scorsese’s done in the last couple of decades. And although DiCaprio’s almost remarkably captivating performance remains a highlight throughout, The Wolf of Wall Street suffers from an erratic sense of pacing that inevitably cancels out its positive attributes – as Scorsese, along with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, has infused the proceedings with a rough-cut feel that grows more and more problematic as time (slowly) progresses. There is, to an increasingly palpable degree, a lack of momentum here that’s nothing short of disastrous, with the movie’s hands-off vibe compounded by an emphasis on overlong and entirely needless sequences (eg Jordan and Donnie’s bad trip on old quaaludes seems to go on forever). The inclusion of a few admittedly captivating interludes (eg Jordan meets with Kyle Chandler’s straight-arrow FBI agent) alleviates the otherwise uninvolving atmosphere and cements the movie’s place as, at the very least, a somewhat watchable piece of work, and yet given the massive amount of talent both in front of and behind the camera, The Wolf of Wall Street ultimately can’t help but come off as both a massive disappointment and a missed opportunity.
** out of ****