Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street is the latest film from Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio. Not surprisingly, it was considered an Awards Season favorite from the time it was announced. The last time Martin Scorsese directed a movie that didn't earn at least overall positive reviews was Boxcar Bertha back in 1972, which is so long ago that we don't even have it in our database. That's a winning streak that is probably second to none. Since the year 2000, he has released six movies (not counting documentaries) and five of those six have earned multiple Oscar nominations. Combined, they have earned 14 Oscar wins. On the other hand, this film earned weaker reviews than expected and was shut out on Oscar night. So is this film weaker than than average for his recent work? Or has he simply made so many great movies that the expectations are just too high?
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stock broker whom we meet, after bouncing around a bit, as a 22-year old who just got his first job on Wall Street. He works for Mark Hanna, who is a little nuts. On his first day at the job, Mark Hanna invites him to lunch and explains his philosophy of being a stock broker, which is to get as much of the clients money into your pocket as possible. If you do make them money in the process, make sure you make them re-invest the money.
After taking his schedule seven and becoming a certified stockbroker, Jordan begins his first day as part of Wall Street. Unfortunately, that day is October 17th, 1987, a.k.a., Black Monday. He thinks that maybe he can go into sales instead, but his wife, Teressa, sees an ad in the local paper, help wanted for stockbrokers. Investor's Center is just a few guys working in a strip mall selling penny stocks to average people. Because they are penny stocks, the SEC doesn't bother regulating them. (Let's face it. They don't care if the little guy gets ripped off.) Jordan starts right away and immediately makes two grand selling 40,000 of some worthless stock.
Jordan starts living the high-life, sort of, and attracts the attention of Danny Porush and the two bump into each other at a diner. Danny asks Jordan how much he makes, but when Jordan tells him ($72,000 a month) at first Danny doesn't believe it. When Jordan proves it, Danny immediately quits his job and starts working for Jordan. They get a bunch of Jordan's friends from the old neighborhood, mostly pot dealers, to be their stockbrokers. It is an instant success. However, there's a little problem. Teressa's not happy. She's not happy, because she has a conscience. She doesn't like her husband ripping off the little guy and wants him to sell to rich people. Jordan knows that won't work, because rich people don't buy penny stocks. But why not?
With that, Jordan transforms his company into Stratton Oakmont, because it sounds legitimate. He writes scripts for his brokers to make them seem like they are professional. And it works. It really works. It works so well that an FBI agent, Greg Coleman, gets interested in the legality of the setup.
What happens from this point enters into spoiler territory, so that's a good place to stop the plot summary.
One of the main complaints I read about The Wolf of Wall Street is that it treated Jordan Belfort as too much of a hero. I don't think that's the case. While he is the main character and in most movies the main character is the hero, Jordan Belfort is portrayed as an amoral, well, I'll let you fill in the blank with your favorite insult. He's greedy, he breaks the law, cheats on his wife, is physically abusive, not to mention all of his addictions. He's not the hero of this story. He does, and this is a spoiler, he does get away with it, for the most part, and I think this is what turned off a lot of people. I think a lot of people, both critics and the average moviegoer, were upset spending three hours watching this prick get rich by ripping people off, and not really pay for his crimes. I admit I wasn't a real fan of this part of the movie, but then again, it is what happened in real life.
Besides that, there is a lot to recommend in this movie. First of all, this is arguably Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio funniest movie ever. Granted, the pair aren't exactly known for their comedies, but there are a number of really funny scenes in this movie and the writing has a lot to do with that. The acting is also fantastic with both Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill both earning Oscar nominations. On a side note, this is Leonardo DiCaprio's fifth nod without a win. He turns 40 this year, so he's no longer a young man, but he could be acting for another three decades if he wants, so I'm sure he will win at least one Oscar during that time.
On the negative side, the movie is long. It is three hours long. (There's a rumored extended edition floating around out there, but I can't imagine how long that would feel like.) It's long, and it is repetitive. There's only so much one can watch someone else party in luxury before it gets grating. I know these scenes were needed to show the decadent lifestyle Jordan Belfort had, but I'm pretty sure some of them could been trimmed and the movie would have been just as effective in that regard. That said, it is my only real complaint about the movie.
The only extra is a 17-minute long making of featurette. What the hell? It's not like this was a limited release that not a lot of people know about. This movie cost $100 million to make and earned nearly $400 million worldwide. It deserves a loaded DVD / Blu-ray release.
The technical presentation is perfect, almost. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the video. The level of details is very high, the colors pop, the blacks are inky deep without swallowing details. Everything about this movie looks amazing on Blu-ray. However, and this is a minor complaint, it isn't a visually flashy movie, so you won't use this disc to show off your home theater system. Likewise, the audio is amazing with incredibly clear dialogue, there's excellent separation, high level of activity in the surround sound speakers, etc. A lot of the film takes place in stockbroker rooms with a ton of activity and the audio track makes you feel like you are a part of that. It is not as impressive as a summer action blockbuster, but that's hardly a serious complaint.
The Blu-ray costs $20, which is $3 or 17% more than the DVD. That's an excellent deal.
The Wolf of Wall Street is certainly worth picking up, but I'm disappointed in the extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack. The film cost $100 million to make, it picked up five Oscar nominations, it earned nearly $400 million worldwide. It should get a fully-loaded home market release. I'm a little worried there will be a double-dip arriving sooner rather than later. In the meantime, this version is still worth picking up.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-03-23