REVIEW: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

CAST

Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception)
Jonah Hill (22 Jump Street)
Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)
Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
Rob Reiner (New Girl)
Jon Bernthal (The Punisher)
Matthew McConaughey (EDTV)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Joanna Lumley (The Cat’s Meow)
Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother)
Christine Ebersole (Confessions of a Shopaholic)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Katarina Cas (Danny Collins)
P. J. Byrne (Final Destination 5)
Kenneth Choi (Red Dawn)
Henry Zebrowski (Herores Reborn)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Jake Hoffman (Hook)
J.C. MacKenzie (Dark Angel)
Edward Herrmann (The Lost Boys)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)In 1987, Jordan Belfort procures a job as a Wall Street stockbroker for L.F. Rothschild, employed under Mark Hanna, who quickly entices him with the sex and drugs fueled stockbroker culture and teaches him that a stockbroker’s only job is to make money for himself. Jordan soon finds his career terminated following Black Monday and takes a job at a boiler room brokerage firm on Long Island that specializes in penny stocks. Thanks to his aggressive pitching style and the high commissions, Jordan makes a small fortune.Leonardo DiCaprio, P.J. Byrne, Jonah Hill, Cristin Milioti, Henry Zebrowski, and MacKenzie Meehan in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)Jordan befriends his neighbor, Donnie Azoff, and the two found their own company. They recruit several of Jordan’s friends, whom Jordan trains in the art of the “hard sell”. The basic method of the firm is a pump and dump scam. To cloak this, Jordan gives the firm the respectable-sounding name of Stratton Oakmont. After an exposé in Forbes, hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company. Jordan becomes immensely successful and slides into a decadent lifestyle full of prostitutes and drugs. He has an affair with a woman named Naomi Lapaglia. When his wife finds out, they divorce, and he marries Naomi. Meanwhile, the SEC and the FBI begin investigating Stratton Oakmont. Jordan illegally makes $22 million in three hours upon securing the IPO of Steve Madden. This brings him and his firm to the attention of the FBI. To hide his money, Jordan opens a Swiss bank account with corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel in the name of Naomi’s Aunt Emma, who is a British national and thus outside the reach of American authorities. He uses the wife and in-laws of his friend Brad Bodnick, who have European passports, to smuggle the cash into Switzerland.Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)Donnie gets into a public brawl with Brad, and, while Donnie escapes, Brad is arrested. Jordan also learns from his private investigator that the FBI is wiretapping his phones. Fearing for his son, Jordan’s father advises him to leave Stratton Oakmont and lie low while Jordan’s lawyer negotiates a deal to keep him out of prison. Jordan, however, cannot bear to quit and talks himself into staying in the middle of his farewell speech. Jordan, Donnie, and their wives are on a yacht trip to Italy when they learn that Aunt Emma has died of a heart attack. Jordan decides to travel to Switzerland immediately to settle the bank account. In order to bypass border controls, he forces his yacht captain to sail to Monaco, but the ship is capsized in a storm. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed when a seagull flies into the engine. Jordan takes this as a sign from God and decides to sober up.Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)Two years later, the FBI arrests Jordan because Saurel, arrested in Florida on an unrelated charge, has also informed on Jordan. Since the evidence against him is overwhelming, Jordan agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency. Fed up with Jordan’s lifestyle, Naomi tells Jordan she is divorcing him and wants full custody of their children. Jordan loses his mind and tries to run off with his daughter Skylar in his car, but he ends up crashing in the driveway. The next morning, Jordan wears a wire to work but slips a note to Donnie warning him. Donnie keeps the note and rats out on Jordan to the FBI. Jordan is arrested for breaching his co-operation deal. The FBI raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont. Despite this one breach, Jordan receives a reduced sentence for his testimony and serves three years in a minimum security prison. After his release, Jordan makes a living hosting seminars on sales technique.Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)Scorsese has always managed to elicit astounding performances from his actors, and his fifth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio results in one of the most charismatic, despicable, offensive and captivating characters to ever appear on screen. As financial bad boy Belfort, DiCaprio swaggers from scene to scene ingesting eye-popping amounts of narcotics, groping and fondling nearly every female within reach, and spouting more profanity in three hours than an entire season of The Sopranos. Belfort is the kind of person that any sane person would detest in real life, but thanks to Scorses and DiCaprio, we can’t take our eyes off him.

REVIEW: BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS

 

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Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider)
Eva Mendes (Hitch)
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Xzibit (Derailed)
Fairuza Balk (Almost Famous)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls)
Tom Bower (Die Hard 2)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
J.D. Evermore (CLoak & Dagger)
Gary Grubbs (Battleship)

Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans opens with the image of a snake swimming through the flood waters of New Orleans, and you’ll have go a long way to find a more apt metaphor to kick off a picture with. What follows is a wholly indescribable mishmash of the slick and the stank, the cool and the campy. It is, at risk of putting too fine a point on it, almost exactly the film you’d expect Herzog and Nicolas Cage to come up with together. What it is not is a sequel, remake, “reboot,” or “re-imagining” of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant. It is a different story, about a different guy, in a different place, and told in a completely different style (Ferrera’s film is a stark, gritty, grim character study, and Herzog’s picture, while frequently disturbing, plays as a pitch-black comedy). All it has in common with its namesake is that it is about a thieving, whoring, druggie cop; the carryover of the title (reportedly at the insistence of the two films’ shared producer Edward R. Pressman, who wanted a straight remake and should have known better if he was hiring Herzog) will probably confuse more than it will assist.

The story begins in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans cops Terence McDonagh (Cage) and Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) survey their deserted station house and discover a leftover prisoner who is about to drown in the rising flood waters of his cell. They contemplate betting on how long it’ll take the water to kill the poor sap, but McDonagh ends up diving in to save him, hurting his back in the process. “I’m gonna write you a prescription for Vicadin,” his doctor tells him, and our junkie cop is off and running.

Six months later, McDonagh is in the throes of a full-on drug addiction, tooting up in his car on the way into a crime scene. The scene is the gruesome, execution-style slaying of a family of five; the patriarch was apparently a low-level drug dealer. Solving the crime becomes, in his words, his “primary purpose”–well, that and getting drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

Broadly speaking, we find Herzog working within the framework of a glossy, well-produced, star-driven thriller; however, Nicolas Cage is no typical star, and this is no standard procedural. The actor has spent too much of the last decade slumming and sleepwalking through mindless paycheck pictures like Knowing, Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous, and the soul-crushing National Treasure series, but every once in a while (I’m gonna say the last time was Lord of War) he gets his hand on a role with some power to it, and turns up the juice. This is the best work he’s done in years, a deliriously unhinged performance that you can’t take your eyes off of. He plays this guy from the outside in–the sheer physicality of the performance is impressive, not only in the expected addict’s tics but in his peculiar walk (he uses an odd sideways lope, as if the gun in his belt is throwing him off balance) and strange speech patterns (as he becomes more addicted, he uses a chewed-up, stylized speaking voice that sounds like a contrivance but totally works within the context of the characterization). He indulges himself a bit, sure; he resorts to mugging in some of his close-ups, and the sheer theatricality of the performance may turn some viewers off. But it’s a risky, impressive piece of work.

William M. Finkelstein’s screenplay has some good scenes (including at least one that reminds of, and rivals, the shock value of that horrifying traffic stop in the original Bad Lieutenant) and a sound structure that allows for the indulgences of its director and star; it somehow seems perfectly logical that, midway through, McDonagh ends up heading to Biloxi with a fifteen-year-old witness and his dad’s dog so that he can pick up his hooker girlfriend. The character is written with complexity beyond his vices; it is unfortunate but true that McDonagh is good at being a cop (even if he’s not a “good cop”). He’s got steady instincts, and he’s strong in the interrogation room. If only he weren’t having all those pesky hallucinations.

The screenplay provides a darkly comic motor to the picture, and much of it is played at that pitch, with great success–Cage’s jittery explosion at a pharmacy clerk and his gun-waving interrogation of two elderly women build to juicy and explosively funny comic payoffs. It’s got such a wicked and knowing sense of humor, in fact, that the mere phrase “property room” becomes a punchline by the picture’s end. It is, my no means, a “funny” movie in any kind of traditional sense, but it uses dark humor as a weapon to keep its viewers on their toes, adding to the unpredictability and oddball, insane style of the piece.