The Wolf of Wall Street chronicles the rise and fall of Stratton Oakmont, a real trading firm headed in the 1990s by Jordan Belfort. It’s Goodfellas and Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross all mashed together in an entertaining blend, though the combination is not quite the equal of those classic movies. The basic story of Jordan Belfort’s actual life is told in a manner that most will recognize from Scorsese’s undisputed mob classic, Goodfellas. What that film did for the mob, The Wolf of Wall Street attempts to do for the criminal elite found on Wall Street. It mostly succeeds in that endeavor, only losing steam as the films drags on for three hours.
Leonardo DiCaprio has become the go-to actor for Martin Scorsese, joining up with the director for several projects in the past fifteen years. In this role Leonardo DiCaprio channels a mid-career Jack Nicholson, hamming it up depicting the wildest excesses of Jordan’s Wall Street lifestyle. The movie solely rests on DiCaprio’s capable shoulders as he ably slips into the convicted felon’s rise from Wall Street trainee to financial con man. Jonah Hill plays Jordan’s right-hand man in the firm, Donny. Margot Robbie plays a showy role as Jordan’s trophy wife, Naomi. It’s an ensemble cast of excellent supporting players, featuring critical cameos by Matthew McConaughey and Rob Reiner.
Making as much as fifty million a year in income from fraudulent stock manipulation, Jordan was a Quaaludes addict and had a penchant for indulging in prostitutes. He founded one of the most lucrative penny stock boiler room operations to ever hit Wall Street, ripping off any investor willing to buy his brokers’ bogus advice. This movie revels in Jordan’s hedonistic lifestyle, featuring all the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll one man can experience with the type of cash that can be made at the apex of Wall Street. He flies back and forth to work by helicopter, coked up beyond belief and holding lavish parties on his huge yacht.
The partying eventually catches up to Jordan and the FBI begins to investigate the criminal activities happening at Stratton Oakmont. Jordan continues to engage in illegal securities scams, even after the SEC offers him a deal to walk away. It is his own hubris that eventually catches up to him, landing the stock broker in prison. As the Feds move in on him, Jordan concocts a scheme to dump his illegal earnings in a Swiss bank account.
Scorsese has fashioned an epic tale of drug-fueled greed and the excesses of Wall Street. The first two hours are mesmerizing. Jordan Belfort switches between professional trader and extravagant con man with alarming ease. Scorsese’s distinctive direction is all over Wolf of Wall Street, hitting many of the same beats Goodfellas also hit. It’s a familiar tune but one with enough charm to strike a rich chord. The story does become somewhat tedious by its finale, Jordan’s fall from riches predictable even if one is not familiar with the true account behind the movie. This might have been an all-time classic if someone had tightened the reins on the final edit.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a beautifully-shot movie. Struck from a 4K Digital Intermediate, the pristine video has been perfectly transferred to 1080P resolution. Shot on a variety of high-end Arri digital cameras, this is big-budget, Hollywood filmmaking done by a master. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is absolutely gorgeous, bathed in a rich color palette highlighted by extraordinary detail.
If there is a complaint, flesh-tones are overly ruddy in complexion and occasionally veer into orange. Digital color-grading is quite excellent in all other regards, set off by a deep contrast and pitch-perfect black levels. This is what reference video on Blu-ray should look like in 2014.
The Wolf of Wall Street has an impressive 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack, designed to test your full complement of speakers in glorious fidelity. The moments of deep bass are rendered with utter precision, highlighting the more raucous moments in Jordan’s crazy lifestyle. The musical soundtrack sounds wonderful, employing a number of popular hits from the era. Surround activity and directionality produce a realistic sense of space, as the action envelopes the listener. This mix does not employ the full bombast of the latest actions films but prefers a more subtle approach.
Paramount has included a number of dub options and subtitles. French 5.1 Dolby Digital at 640 kbps, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital at 640 kbps, and English Descriptive Audio at 640 kbps are all included. English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles all display in a white font, contained within the 2.40:1 framing at all times.
Paramount includes one special feature, The Wolf Pack, a solid mini-documentary featuring extensive participation by Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. Most of the cast shows up for brief, but fairly entertaining, snippets and insight into the production process behind The Wolf Of Wall Street. One always wishes for more than this but I think it’s likely we see a special edition down the road with more complete featurettes.
First pressings include a slipcover. Target has an exclusive Steelbook edition of this Blu-ray set. Best Buy has their own exclusive version with a bonus disc of short featurettes.
Paramount has included an UltraViolet digital copy that redeems in HDX on VUDU and an iTunes digital copy. The combo pack also features the main feature on a DVD.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.