Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Wolf of Wall Street

In Martin Scorsese's epic fall from grace tale "The Wolf of Wall Street" all the usual suspects are here.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as another crooked shyster with a big forehead of Ego as Jordan Belfort, the real life George Hamilton-ish con man who made millions dealing in fraudulent penny stocks. Belfort ultimately went to prison for 36 months.

Although the dizzying debauchery is masterfully rendered in all its bestial grunting and frenetic fornication (with much cocaine and champagne nuzzled and guzzled over mounds of heaping cleavage) the film takes a cue from Oliver Stone and MTV's "Jackass".

A little goes a long way with three hours pushing to self indulgence.

We see Belfort a little damp behind the ears as an adrenaline junkie who goes to Wall Street to become a phone puncher. He is seduced by the reptilian Mark Hanna (played by who else but Matthew  McConaughey) who teaches him the ropes (sort of) along with a weird primal chant. Hanna tells him that he has to forget his morals if he wants to be a broker. He also must do copious amounts of drugs and masturbate compulsively without regard to convention or mores. Such rituals are the only way to keep the imps of anxiety and self doubt at bay.

Money and transgressions create the only standards.

Belfort happily pushes buttons and passes his broker exam. Then Black Monday hits and the market drops precipitously, losing some five hundred points. He is a man beyond his means, unemployed and unemployable, yet still driven by hungry ghosts. Belfort gets a tip in the paper that an unscrupulous boiler room outfit is hiring. In a phone audition, they are overwhelmed by his wiles in making thousands in mere minutes.

Belfort starts his own cubicle warehouse, riding on the coat tails of blue chip stocks, while making millions in obscure and worthless "pink sheet" stocks.

Belfort becomes richer and richer, able to turn his day to day life into a orgiastic carnival of sorts, complete with amber strippers and chimps. There are long stretches of savage roars and simian shrieks, the shredding of Armani suits, the pumping of male muscle coupled with the snorting of breasts and public urination.

Flesh is cast to look like exploded flowers or depressive vines. Fellini could make this hypnotically interesting, but here, (although not tedious) such voluptual vacuity runs a little flat.

How many shots of cocaine-hilled breasts are really necessary?

Donnie (Jonah Hill) is Belfort's right hand man, but he acts like an adolescent, drooling, crying and snorting. Hill has a nice scene with heavy Jon Bernthal and captures the staccato of Scorsese's trademark dialogue perfectly. As a smarmy and self deprecating henchman Hill is fittingly entertaining and he employs his usual awkward and unwanted persona to vivid advantage.

The best aspect to this film is its humor. Suffocated by monogrammed pillows on his yacht, Belfort gets deeper and deeper in the morass of muddied money and wanton deceit. Much of it hinges on adultery, the pull of sex and self destruction with Belfort's new materialist wife (Margot Robbie). Just when Belfort attempts to escape, his yacht gets pulverized by a storm. On land, as his polyester men are being arrested, he unwittingly overdoses on old quaaludes while Donnie chokes on a roll of ham.

Scorcese lampoons his own snare of savagery in making a karmic joke.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is crafted like a pair of two toned gangster shoes. The first side pays  homage to those non-potty trained pratfalls of injury tv and Johnny Knoxville, while the second is a black laced noose of a feckless man in happenstance.

If you have seen "Casino" or "Goodfellas" the story is practically patented: an excess of macho, savage sex and fiscal irresponsibility leads to The Feds.

But even with such familiar territory, DiCaprio makes it fun as an unshakeable, semi-sinister goon who keeps his bone ivory polo shirt and white spackle smile unsoiled by the shit of his deeds.

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