The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

It’s always interesting when animals are shown to be humans. Not in the bizarre way that people dress up dogs to make them look like they’re going diving or for a round of golf, more in a “The Wind in the Willows” way. I mean, who could forget Mr. Toad? No-one! There are so many other stories of animals taking on some cooky role. Danger Mouse is another example that instantly springs to mind, as does anything featuring Donald Duck or the fabulous Scrooge McDuck. Ok, I’ve lost some of you here haven’t I? You’re sitting there thinking “what have you been blasting into your Phagey nostrils?” and you’re questioning my integrity as a (self-appointed) film critic. Well… there’s a link… and there’s even a link to blasting stuff into my nostrils. Yes, we’ve finally ventured out to see a film about a wolf. Sadly, it featured no wolves, just a very coked up broker. Welcome to The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

Yes, weird intros aside, The Wolf of Wall Street tells the tale of the “wolf” Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he schemes and manipulates his way up the ranks of the stockbroker world, just as the real guy did back in the 1990’s to amass millions from playing the system. We see the rise of Belfort and how he leads his gang of fellow brokers, notably including Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and how he battles to elude the long arm of the FBI, headed up by Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler). I’ve probably made the story sound very staid and dull, but I can assure you it most certainly isn’t… This is a Martin Scorsese movie afterall…

First, let’s deal with the impression the trailer gives you about the film: high octane comedy featuring midgets, hookers, drugs and Matthew McConaughey. All of these elements are indeed in there (more of the drugs and hookers than the others), but the trailers do The Wolf of Wall Street a slight disservice, as this isn’t a laugh-a-second film. It certainly has some laugh out loud moments and some truly bizarre scenes with a paralytic DiCaprio sprawling around the floor with Jonah Hill. These parts actually reminded more of Pineapple Express than any other film! But as I say, this is a Scorsese film, so you’re getting a lot more depth here. I’d go as far to say that this is one of his best works, just because it flows so seamlessly and tells a truly interesting story over its 3 hour run time.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

Yes: 3 hours. This will be enough to deter some folks; especially those that were expecting a comedy. Although the run time is long, and some might say “indulgent”, I thought it worked well. I found myself wanting to know how the plot was going to progress and was glad of the extra minutes to really detail more about Belfort’s life and extravagances. What really drew me in here was DiCaprio, as he really owned the screen every moment he was on it. Belfort, as a character, should be a vile and despicable beast, but DiCaprio gives him heart and soul. Although you probably won’t empathise with him, especially so in the latter scenes of the movie, DiCaprio shines in making him at least relatable, even if you wouldn’t call him “loveable”. Then there’s a turn from Jonah Hill sporting some of the most bizarre teeth I’ve seen. I’ve had a lot of time for Hill since his great turn in Moneyball opposite Brad Pitt, and this does more to cement him in my mind as a solid actor. Hell, the fact that he was reported paid only $70,000 for this role (he just wanted to be in a Scorsese film and didn’t care about the fee) is testament to his dedication.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

Bringing these types of gritty crime-inspired stories to life has always been the forte of Martin Scorsese and The Wolf of Wall Street is no different. Whilst it veers into comedy at times, it still retains the man’s signature “feel”. I also think that the pairing of Scorsese and DiCaprio benefited the film immensely, leading to one of the most enjoyable Scorsese films in recent memory… and indeed one of the most enjoyable films period. As for how this will do in the upcoming Awards… well, time will tell, but after the stellar year we’ve had, I think it’s going to be a tough sell…

The Wolf of Wall Street is a vividly boisterous film that will enthral film lovers and deter those looking for quick, easy laughs. Although it’s certainly a lengthy tome, it’s entirely needed to really bring the story to life. It also helps having a fantastic cast to boot. What would be the point of a great story if it was acted out by chimps? Actually…

The Chimps of Chelsea… The Bears of Broadway… The Dolphins of Detroit. Yes, I can see many exciting extensions to this film, and I can see those hoighty toity chimps with their monocles, those bears blasting out show tunes and those dolphins… erm… talking at length about the once great automotive hub that was Detroit? Ok, maybe that last film isn’t a winner. Unless you gave them some hookers. Dolphin hookers… they make it hard to look at blow holes the same…

Phage Factor:

4.5 Stars

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The Heat (2013)

The Heat (2013)

Buddy comedies… they’re nothing new. The formula is tried and tested. Normally, you take a tight ass and a slob / someone that doesn’t play by the rules and pair them together. The hilarity should therefore ensue. It’s quite honestly one of the most established forms of comedy you’ll get. I was going to list some examples here, but you’re all well aware of the films, right? Come on… I don’t need to list them. Good? Good. Glad we’re on the same page. That being said, if you’re going to attempt to pull it off in 2013, you best be packing some high calibre comedy ammo in that script, or have some lead actors in place that can pull it off with aplomb. This brings us to The Heat, which is conforming to every buddy film stereotype under the sun. Hell, it’s even a cop-based buddy movie… but with two solid female leads and the guy that wrote Bridesmaids behind it… is it hot, tepid or frankly cold and damp?

The Heat focuses on the team up of Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) – the uptight FBI Special Agent that doesn’t really get along with many people, but is amazing at her job, and Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) – the down-and-gritty Boston beat cop that has her own “unique” approach to police work. Between them they need to locate and take down a drug kingpin… and that’s it. That’s the plot, but it’s a comedy, so I’m not sure what you were expecting from it really. That’s not to short change the film though, as it does have its narrative twists and turns, but overall it’s a pretty straight-up, down-the-line, by-the-numbers, lots-of-hyphens type of film. Does it suffer from that? Well… a little.

The Heat (2013)

The strength of this film MUST rest with its lead actors, and thankfully both Bullock and McCarthy are on form here. Bullock always does a good job of playing the naive one in a “buddy” film, with Demolition Man springing to the forefront of my mind… damn, now that’s a good movie. Anyway, back on track, she’s solid and reliable, as always. McCarthy, similarly is establishing herself as a comedic force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. The fact that so much of the scripting in this is ad-libbed is also gratifying to know, as I think it keeps things fresh and lets the emotions run wild with the actors. All that being said… I just didn’t find the film overly funny. It had its scenes that made me smile, but nothing really made me guffaw.

Maybe this all comes back to the hard and cold fact that I’m a hard taskmaster to please. In my screening, a good chunk of the audience were whooping and laughing at absolutely anything. If I’m honest, I think they’d also have got equally excited at watching water hit the windscreen on a car. They just seemed quite simple. I’m not joking… there’s a scene where Melissa McCarthy drinks a pint. Nothing funny: just drinking. That’s apparently funny. I clearly don’t “get it”. Maybe McCarthy is a lot like Zach Galiafianakis – you either find every one of his motions hysterical, or you really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. This isn’t to say I don’t find McCarthy funny, as I do, but I don’t hang off of her every motion.

Oh they so don't get along... I wonder if that'll change?

Oh they so don’t get along… I wonder if that’ll change?

The real issue with the film is inherent to the genre… it’s all too predictable. The characters are flawed, and you immediately know what the outcome will be. There are no elaborate tricks or techniques to shake up the formula; it all plays out exactly as you’d expect. The film therefore needs to fall back on its humour, which for the most part seems to please general audiences, although I did find myself lacking as I’ve just babbled on about. Speaking of babbling, I’m also finding myself running out of words to describe this film. Perhaps that’s the true issue with the film… I just struggled to really care about it. I felt like I could have walked out 1/3 of the way in and predicted everything that’d happen. Even the jokes, thanks to the trailers giving away the big laughs. With that said… let’s take this review off the heat and let it cool shall we?

The Heat has its moments, and thanks to two strong leads will keep fans of raucous comedies entertained. However, for the rest of us seeking something a bit more cerebral or interesting it falls short of the mark. The plotting is too predictable and the jokes sometimes just feel too cheap to really enthral The Phage. Maybe that’s due our Britishness in not finding a Boston accent *the* most hilarious thing you’ve ever heard (it’s not)… that forms a good 5 minutes of joke space in this film, for instance. So whilst not a failure, The Heat certainly only delivers a luke-warm slice of cinematic comedy.

I almost wonder if there’s a book in Hollywood containing the “A-Z of Buddy Cop Clich├ęs”. Whilst The Heat didn’t conform to every single stereotype, it hardly reinvented the wheel either. Hell, even adding a third lead character would make for a slightly different “buddy” film. Or maybe Me, Myself and Irene already pseudo did that with Jim Carrey‘s split personalities? Who knows! Regardless, I’ve already made my “heat” based puns in the previous paragraph… so let’s just end this shall we? See… even I can repeat lines, just like The Heat, really…

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars