Biopic Blu-ray Review

Bullish Blu-ray Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

March 26, 2014Ben Mk


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All-American hustle

By Ben Mk

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And in the case of Jordan Belfort — whose ambition to become a Wall Street power broker took him to the top of the FBI's most-wanted list — that couldn't be more true. His actions were unscrupulous and morally indefensible, and his story is one of greed and lust, full of anecdotes of drugs and debauchery. It's a quintessential tale of the American dream gone wrong, and all of it is brought to life in vivid detail in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street.

At twenty-two, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a married, middle-class New Yorker, with “high-minded aspirations”. After landing a junior-level job at a Wall Street brokerage firm, he’s immediately taken under the wing of senior broker Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), who bestows upon him his first taste of success, as well as a few choice tips for replicating it. But Jordan’s career is off to a rocky start, when his first day as a licensed broker just happens to coincide with the catastrophic Black Monday stock market crash. Out of the job and desperate for work, he finds himself in the unlikeliest of places: a small operation called “Investor’s Center”, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Wall Street. Calling on his natural salesmanship techniques, he discovers an innate talent for closing deals — and puts it to use selling penny stocks to the unsuspecting, racking up massive commissions in the process.

His unorthodox recipe for success catches the attention of Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. It’s not long until Jordan sets up shop for himself, recruits a few of his pals from the Bronx, teaches all of them his sales techniques and brands his new company “Stratton Oakmont, Inc.”. With a growing appetite — not just for money, but for sex and drugs (especially Quaaludes) — and a steadily growing army of brokers under his employ, he sets out to conquer Wall Street. His ambition and questionable ethics even net him a beautiful ex-model, named Naomi (Margot Robbie), and earn him the moniker of "the Wolf of Wall Street" from Forbes magazine. Soon, he finds himself under the watchful eye of the FBI — in particular, a zealous agent named Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who’s hellbent on bringing both him and his entire empire down.

Clocking in at a hefty three hours, The Wolf of Wall Street is a surreal study in excess that’s not for the faint of heart. Think of the film itself as one giant metaphor for the subject matter. Jordan’s meteoric rise from the ranks of the middle-class to the upper echelons of the rich and powerful makes him a poster child for “too much, too soon”, and he becomes a slave to his primal urges, guided only by his inflated ego and animal instincts. All of this is reflected in Scorsese’s opus, which revels in its depictions of hedonism and drug use, coating everything in a candy shell layer of absurdity and sardonic humor. There’s no denying the entertainment factor of the film — thanks in particular to the over-the-top performances turned in by DiCaprio and Hill — but it's easy to forget that beneath the more bombastic elements of the script is a cautionary tale of greed and power.

In the immortal words of Vince Vaughn's character in Swingers, Paramount's Blu-ray transfer is money. Despite the film's long running time, image quality is unwaveringly sharp (save for deliberate decisions on the part of Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, to have the image reflect Jordan's state of mind when he's under the influence of drugs). From the lush grounds of Jordan's Long Island mansion to the vibrant Italian harborfront where he docks his yacht later in the film, colors are richly saturated, and the picture reveals a multitude of fine detail (such as the fuzz on the garish 80's sweaters and the threading on the expensive suits). The film's slow-motion scenes especially benefit from the crispness of the image, which adds to their sense of hyper-realism. Music is a big part of the film's energy, and the disc's chest-thumping DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack aptly reproduces the film's eclectic mix of pop, rock and everything in-between, without fail. Every aspect of the film's multi-textured soundstage — from Jordan's motivational speeches to the chaos that erupts daily in the Stratton Oakmont offices — comes across loud and clear, with excellent balance between dialog, effects and music.

The Blu-ray release includes a DVD copy of the film, as well as a code redeemable for an UltraViolet or iTunes digital copy. Otherwise, the lone HD special feature on the disc is the 17-minute documentary, The Wolf Pack. Bringing together interview footage with the filmmakers — including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Martin Scorsese — along with behind-the-scenes footage and scenes from the film, the somewhat scattershot making-of covers such topics as the working relationships between the actors and the improvisational nature of the acting, as well as touching briefly on the filmmakers' concerns about how accepting audiences would be of such morally reprehensible characters. Ultimately, this piece would be of greater interest if it had dwelled longer on the film's more controversial aspects — such as the morality of the tale being told — but unfortunately, there isn't much time allotted to it.


Although some may balk at the notion of a three-hour film about stockbrokers, this isn't what The Wolf of Wall Street is about. What it is is a Martin Scorsese film — on Quaaludes — and it's one of the most ludicrously entertaining and exhilarating films of the year. Paramount's Blu-ray release features a searing A/V presentation, but it's light on bonus features. Still, those keen on visiting (or revisiting) this epic tale of greed and debauchery would be well advised to buy into The Wolf of Wall Street on Blu-ray. At least the home viewing experience makes bathroom breaks more convenient.

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  ★★★★
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  ★★★★★
Special Features  —  ★★




* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on December 25th, 2013.




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