Review: ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ a Long, Boring Mess

It may be sacrelige to say anything negative about legendary director Martin Scorsese and equally renowned actor Leonardo DiCaprio, but it’s time to speak out.

It’s not ok.

It’s not ok to make three hours of graphic sex, epic drug binges, and general debauchery as boring as it is in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Maybe because I have two X chromosomes it’s different for me, but somewhere around the twentieth naked breast, I started fidgeting. Watching Jonah Hill on his estimated seventeenth drug high, I started brewing over my to-do list. By the time the fourth orgy rolled around, I was actively checking my watch.

Imagine my dismay when I realized there was still an hour and a half left to this interminable movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort and Jonah Hill as his right hand man Donnie. In real life, Belfort founded a firm that sold junk stocks to small-time investors and quickly moved into defrauding them as well.

The movie, based on Belfort’s autobiography of the same name, follows the story closely, including his relationships with his wives (spoiler: he doesn’t treat them well).

The story certainly has epic qualities that should easily translate to screen and ask some questions about greed, materialism, and even capitalism. I think the movie, its director, and its star have those aspirations.

But it falls short.

The most basic part of a good story is missing: Conflict.

When we meet Jordan Belfort, he is a jerk. Half way through the movie, he is still a jerk. And by the end (spoiler) he remains a jerk.

There is no inner arc, no inner turmoil that would reveal that he struggles with his choices or regrets anything or even gives his life a second thought. He merely goes from one extravagant act to the next like a whirlwind.

If you’re looking for external conflict, it’s AWOL as well. Sure, we have Kyle Chandler as a SEC agent investigating the company, but he’s almost a side character. There is no real rivalry between the two men, no great struggle between them.

Instead, we see again and again how completely debauched these characters are. They do drugs, they drink. They mock and abuse their clients. They lie to their clients. They do more drugs. They bring in strippers. They take mistresses and have gay sex and do S&M and talk about vaginas and show their penises.

And then they do it all again. For three hours.

There’s a word for this: self-indulgence. Not on the part of the characters, but the director.

It would have been a far better movie with a good 60-80 minutes cut from it. But, sadly, apparently nobody tells Scorsese no.

The problem isn’t so much the graphic content of the movie, although it should have received a NC-17 rating rather than a R.

The problem is there is no point to all those shenanigans.

Once it was established these characters were living for the drugs and orgies, that character development was done. There was no need to show Jonah Hill, apparently in real time for 20 minutes, attempt to operate a phone while banged out on prescription pills after a series of previous equally humiliating episodes. There was no need to show DiCaprio so high he can’t walk (a state Belfort refers to as a “cerebal palsy high”) and literally roll down stairs to his car after a series of previous equally bad decisions.

We get it. They’re drug users. Serious drug users. Enough.

If there was entertainment value to the hijinks beyond the first 20 minutes, that would be different and would make it a comedy. However, the movie does not want to be Pineapple Express or Harold and Kumar.

It wants to Be Serious and Mean Something and Comment on Society.

Beyond “Bitches be trippin’” it really doesn’t.

If Scorsese wanted to make a movie about graphic sex and drug use with no point, he should have skipped the middleman and gone right to porn.

I did not care about anyone in the movie, neither Jordan nor his wife, not Donnie or the motley crew of merry pranksters. I didn’t care about the SEC or the clients who lost their money to this guy. It was an time-consuming character study of a bad man, nothing more.

Skip it.

Please, don’t give anyone associated with this mess an Oscar.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • Candice Frederick

    yikes

  • Jennifer

    100% agree. I was searching for a review that explained what I thought and this is on point. The movie had so many opportunties to develop some sort of conflict or an interesting plot but instead it kept everything superficial and you just wasted your time on a 3 hour porn. There could have been a huge rivalry between the SEC agent and Jordan, him and his wife, or an internal moral conflict.. But there was nothing. Absolutely no emotion involved, just porn and drugs.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for the attagirl!

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com/ Nancy French

    Great review! Skip!

  • Lotta

    And the continuity sucked.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Yes. Good point. It really really did. I should have mentioned that.

      • John

        There are some obvious parallels between the two major movies of 2013 which sought to analyse the corrosive interpersonal consequences secondary to the unchecked pursuit of wealth by any means available. Both starred Mr Di Caprio. Both portrayed damaged people who lived the lies that were the raison d’etre of their existentialist mayhem. Both portrayed lives lived to apocalyptic excess, but only one movie sought to answer the big question – why! Why did you not see the fallout, why did you not care for the morality of your choices, why did you fill up your emptiness with the fruits of greed and exploitation. And the movie that did ask the seminal questions was ignored by the Academy. Hmmmm

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          I agree with you. Although I don’t think the primary point of Gatsby is an exploration of wealth. It’s an exploration of love, or lack thereof.

        • William Bontrager

          Gatsby was bad too. I read the story and honestly didn’t think such a minimalist story, as great as it was, could be translated to the screen.

  • Joe Regular

    A really biting incisive review. Loved it. Do more like this Puh Leeeze with cheese on top.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Mark my words. I am Marked for more like this.

  • dave

    this movie is about excess and greed, jonah, leo and the rest of the cast were great…..i loved this movie

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      People do. I fail to see why but different strokes for different folks. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • D Snow

    Obviously written by, as confirmed at the top, an average looking girl who felt uncomfortable watching it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Excellent. This is now my third favorite comment of all time, behind “Blah to the critic,” which I think will reign forever and “Your an idiot. You were only hired because your attractive.”

      Keep ‘em comin’ folks!

  • PatrickP

    Did Henry Hill learn much? I assume Neither Henry nor Jordan came across to Scorsese as having learned any great life lessons, whether from their memoirs or any in person interviews he may have conducted. As such Scorsese doesn’t transform them, doesn’t make them new men, completely evolved, and shining examples of what to be in this world, he shows them as they are. The evolution is in how we view them. We start by being the ones they con. They tell us of the excitement, the experiences the rest of us only read about, and they become very appealing people. There’s something very exciting about the unknown, the dangerous lifestyle. Over the course of the movie Scorsese’s trick is not to make the character a better human being, but rather to make us feel sorry for them. Thinking this guy is fun, crazy, exciting, and needs to be locked up takes all of one to two scenes. The rest are devoted to that slow transition where you can actually feel sorry for this character.
    As we learn about the $25k loan to a co-worker or the attempt to help a friend with a napkin, we see a side to Jordan we hadn’t fully seen before. This makes us view him differently. It doesn’t try to forgive what he did to the poor investors, the women in his life, the drugs, etc…, it does make a previously simple view of the character far more complicated. Thats the brilliance of Scorsese. Somehow Henry deserves better than Ketchup and noodles, and Jordan should be spending his time better utilizing his skills to fill the needs of get rich quick hopefuls.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Things that were interesting: That 25k loan and his unexplored decision to gain sobriety. Those would have been interesting stories. Unfortunately, combined, they took up about 3 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

  • Bobby

    The movie was not a mess, nor boring, it was clearly reflected to Jordan Belforts autobiography, which I must say was interesting to watch all 3 hours of it. Just because the sex and drug use makes you cringe at the sight since you are a 4 year old girl deep in the heart has nothing to do with the fact that it was a bad movie. Those are your own phobias that you need to deal with. In fact, if these are the things that you are so disgusted of, why did you even bother to see the movie? I’d say the trailer gave away that there will be scenes like these. I can understand why average people like you think the the drugs and sex was overdone, but have a sense of humour. The movie did come somewhat serious with a little touch of comedy to it. As for the the fact that you think there was no ‘conflict’, it’s obvious that you were hiding behind your blanket because the whole point of the story was the about his life, his genius ideas and ways of making money and the way mass amounts of money affect human beings. It’s okay I honestly don’t blame you judging by your talent in being a film critic, and your effective arguments, which is why I won’t even recommend you to watch the movie again. But for all those people that wasted their time reading this review, I highly recommend them to watch the movie as it is predicted to be one of the best movies of the year.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      You know, it kind of bothers me that it didn’t bother me to watch him snort cocaine off a prostitute’s, um, dirtiest body part.

      I am way too jaded. And I hope that 4 year old girls, and older girls, would be affected by that.

      The movie did not make me uncomfortable, which speaks more to my level of jadedness than anything. It did make me very, very bored. At least feeling uncomfortable would have been a little bit interesting.

      Not sure what you’re defending here, but “you’re a four year old girl because you might be bothered by watching someone stick a candle in someone else’s, um, dirtiest body part” is not really a strong argument.

      For my readers: Note that I’m saying “dirtiest” and not sexiest. That’s all I’m going to say about that but, yes, it’s the dirtiest part. Also the name of a planet.

    • Yannick

      (To Bobby) ”Those are your own phobias that you need to deal with” … ”if these are the things that you are so disgusted of, why did you even bother to see the movie?”

      I’m sensing a serious case of butthurt from someone (and 9 up voters) who either overrated this movie or someone who is a little too big of a fan of Leo DiCaprio, or both. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Leo is a great actor, but if I had to choose a movie where I thought that he did a great job at acting then it sure wouldn’t be The Wolf of Wall Street. However I don’t want to blame Leo for the fact that I didn’t enjoy this movie.

      Back to your comment: Why did you think ”why bother going to this movie” was going to be a good argument? I payed €9 to see this movie, because I thought it was going to be great. I heard so many good things about it, and kept seeing the advertisment, which is why I decided to see this movie with a friend of mine. After the movie we both walked out, bored and dissapointed. We both expected to see more than what was talked about so much. Rebecca Cusey perfectly described in this review what I thought about this movie, what could be better, and why people shouldn’t give any awards to this movie. Asking someone why they bothered to go to a movie when the only thing they saw was the trailer is just plain dumb. The trailer barely shows what is actually in the movie. A trailer shouldn’t spoil too much of the movie. Which was unfortunate, because in that case I would have been warned. The trailer didn’t say ”you get to see a sh*tload of boring and repetitive sex, drugs and drinking scenes” and neither did it tell anything about the scenes that were stretched out way too much, and didn’t add anything to the movie. Perfect example was the scene were Leo was so high on drugs that he was crawling his way to his car (which was supposed to be extremely funny… but it was obviously not) or the scene after that were they both wanted to talk on the phone while being high. It was so stretched out that I wanted to just put my feet on the empty seat next to me and scroll through my Twitter/Facebook feed. Which I eventually did. And those are only two examples! The movie didn’t need to be that long. Those type of scenes could have been a lot shorter, which eventually would have made it a little better.

      And if you honestly think these repetitive, uninteresting and humorless sex/drugs/drinking scenes were so fun then I really question myself what kind of horrible humor you like. If this is fun then I would like to see your reaction to movies who are actually funny. At certain moments in the movie I was just like ”What the f**k is going on? Was this supposed to be funny?” and when I saw my friend’s facial expression I assume he was thinking the exact same thing. When Leo and his crew where on the boat during a storm I thought ”this scene might become interesting” but it was mediocre at best, like the whole movie was. While they were saved by some other ship, his and Donnie’s wife where dancing with the sailors, and apparently the plane that was supposed to come and take them to their destination suddenly crashed into God knows what, and then Leo babbles something about being unlucky and I heard some people around me laughing awkwardly like they were thinking ”Wait… what?” which was exactly what I was thinking. There were so many unnecessary moments in this movie, it eventually just started to annoy me. I wanted to see the ending but at the same time I wanted to walk out of the cinema because I was already dissapointed by most of the movie. I know that this movie was supposed be an autobiography of Jordan
      Belfort, but in that case it was a bad filming of his autobiography.

      To wrap it up, I think Rebecca Cusey couldn’t be more right about this movie and I definitely share the same opinion with her. Bobby I couldn’t bring up any sympathy for your comment because it was your honest opinion, but because I felt like you’re just mad that Rebecca criticized your (maybe) favorite movie of all time. A person with a decent type of humor and someone who can sense and understand what a good movie is knows that The Wolf of Wall Street is overrated and why this movie shouldn’t deserve any big prizes. Please I would advise you to actually watch a good movie, such as 12 Years A Slave. If you’ve seen that movie then you can’t possibly still praise The Wolf Of Wall Street like it was a godsend.

      And for the next time when someone criticizes something that you like, please don’t use the internet to blow off your steam, Mr. Butthurt. You can go outside, or actually watch a good movie…

  • adrian

    Totally redundant film. My opinion Scorsese should retire, open up a pizza restaurant, and hang with his pals. I mean really. What a piece of garbage, and de Niro making how many crappy movies in 2013 ? Can they both just take a very long vacation to another planet, and allow real talent to make movies !

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Maybe we should take up a collection.

  • mEmE2

    VULGAR MESS OF A LIFE AND ARROGANT PERSON HE IS.

  • mEmE2

    YES IT WAS A 3 HR. PORN FILM, VERY SUPERFICIAL ABOUT A SUPERFICIAL PERSON, AND THE 2 MAIN CHARACTERS STILL SEEM TO BE “TRYING” TO SCAM OTHERS IN THEIR “REAL” LIVES, NOW. WHAT A WASTE OF LIVES THEY ARE. GREED, SLOTH, AND ADULTERY GALORE.

    • Rachel

      Watched it last night I was very disappointed walked out with 11/2 hours left of the film. I found it very boring one big ego trip for Leonardo, no story no humour just repeated swearing nudity drugs orgies. The worst film I’ve seen for a long time.

  • Chris

    there

  • Danny

    A movie like this was more a look into the mind and habits of a character rather than a film with a complicated plot ending with him remorseful behind bars. We didn’t see him evolve or change because there was no sign that Jordan Bellfort ever did change. We didn’t see him become sober, play with his kids or have any conflicts because the only thing he truly loved was the power and the money. This can be seen by the *spoiler* part where he’s supposed to step down and he get so emotional that he can’t even do it *spoiler*. That’s pretty much one of the only parts where he shows any empathy. Notice how in the scene with the kid he doesn’t even ponder the fact of what just happened. No empathy, nothing. I don’t think this was the filmmaker leaving out crucial scenes, but showing what was important to Jordan.

    There was no growth, no sudden realization that everything he did was wrong, therefore we didn’t see any. The film accomplished exactly what it set out to do, which was to show a crazy man, who got completely transformed almost overnight to an incredibly insane, sex addicted, drug fueled money loving psychopath and how he spent his time. And for that I think it was great.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I agree with your assessment, but my conclusion is very different. A story needs character AND plot. This had only character.

  • Vadim Korolov

    10% story and 90% of drugs, sex, crime. Movie is boring, we don’t see full story. Movie is trying to show you how bad Jordan was by taking drugs, having orgy and this is it. We don’t understand what crimes he actually did, we don’t see a bad guy but we see addicted guy. I want to know about crime he did and i am not interesting in his addictions but movie doesn’t show me full story.

    Agree 100% with this review, i prefer watch porno movie then this crap.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

    I remember thinking “I’d be interested in hearing about that.” In the breakup, his kids, and his attempt at sobriety. But they were only hinted at and we were back at orgies.

  • omer

    excellent review. finally somone talk about how this movie its just about glorifying being and ass (or worse) to everyone. those ideas are never fresh, or thought provoking, just easy and boring, and as a side effect have a negative impact on the viewers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks. Being an ass (or worse) is exactly what he was doing.

  • Guest

    I agree from the hour and a half I saw, that was when we walked out. It was one dimensional and repetitive, and I didn’t believe it. I had the feeling I watched a movie that was filmed as if it was true, on the basis of a story of a narcissistic liar. Over the top, boring, and pointless.

    • edotje

      Well the point is obviously that there are greedy psychopathic assholes, who base their ego on the amount of money they make, even though the money is made by destroying lives. And they can get away with, in the sense that they don’t get punished severely (they are shallow creepy assholes though,surrounded by shallow creepy assholes, and that’s reason enough to not envy them).
      Yet that’s the only point, and the characters are so one dimensionally, and everything is presented so over the top, that it gets pretty boring for me.

    • Guest2

      Well.. it was true. And it happens every day on Wall St. So maybe time to get your head out of your you know what and realize that this world does exist?

      How do you leave a movie that was nominated for best picture half way into it? If anything, it just shows me your horrid taste in movies in general.

  • shravan kumar

    I like Martin and Leonardo they are very talented. But i didn’t knew they can make a comedy porn get nominated for Oscars. I read the genre as Biography | Comedy | Crime, i think it should be Porn | comedy | Vulgar.

    Still don’t understand why IMDB shows 8.7

    you know what?? i had to google “the wolf of wall street is boring” to find this blog

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      SOoooooooo boring. I’m bored even thinking about it now.

  • Fran

    Fab article – really well written. As a firm feminist, I was pissed off enough at the “wallpaper women” but was also very confused as to what the film was trying to prove. Scorsese really glamorised a lifestyle and a “profession” we are supposed to despise and the guy who wrecked so many lives and hurt so many people got off really lightly with no implication that he’d learnt his lesson. In a film where everything is so explicit from the nudity to the language, Scorsese could at least make the message explicit. Are we supposed to admire this life or condemn it? Either way it was too long and far too boring. Was so disappointed!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for commenting. Wallpaper women is a great term.

    • klø

      He got off easy because that is how it happened in the true story.

  • Richard Plata

    Thank you for this. Was Goodfellas, only more pointless, longer and boring.

  • Rick

    Chandler was an FBI agent, not an SEC agent. No wonder you didn’t like it, you weren’t paying attention.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      You’re totally right. Me getting that one detail wrong completely invalidates my review and probably all reviews I’ve ever written.

      • Rick

        I’m glad you agree.

  • guest

    100% agree. Was bored and 1/3 the way through was looking at the time. There were 4 people in the theater. 1 gal was on her iphone texting, reading paying little attention to the film, another gal in front of me walked out 2/3 the way through, an sixty plus old man seemed interested and I just kept hoping it would get better. I would have left but had no set plans for the rest of the afternoon so just kept watching…so boring and bad.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you.

  • Jase

    Hi, I completely agree with you. The fact that this film manages to stretch to a watchable 3 hours, after the quite painful first hour, is testimony to Leonardo’s great performance and a few inspired funny moments. Re the Goodfellas similarity I couldn’t work out if this was an ‘homage’ or a complete rip off?

    PS unlike a previous commentator I do not agree you’re average looking at all. Too many impartial reviewers seem to be bullied into toeing the line – keep up the good work!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Aww, you’re sweet, Jase. Thanks.

      I rather enjoy the attempts at bullying. They’re so inane as to be entertaining.

  • MSDisqus

    You’re just one person. Just because you didn’t like the film, doesn’t mean others won’t like it. The movie is a great movie for men and I feel that if men watch a movie like this they will stop being so feminine in this feminine culture of the United States.

  • Sjöhuvud

    Walked out of the cinema after 1.5 hours. About five minutes of cocaine and non-nude strippers would have been enough to tell us that, yes, these guys are Grade A morons. But there is no plot, just nude scene after nude scene. It’s booooring and lazy. Oscar nominated?! What the hell.

    The best movie on this subject matter is still the one without “Wolf of” in the title.

  • rishikesh

    it was a comment on society, do you remember the line,”Straton Oakmont here, is America”. there is a reason Terence Winter got nominated for Oscar. it was like a modern day Caligula, man. a modern day sin fest

  • Andrew Curran

    I picked up this movie hoping it would be as funny and amazing as all the news outlets claim it to be. However, I was sorely mistaken. I have never been more bored in my life watching a film then when I was watching The Wolf of Wall Street. I thought it would never end.

    Best part was when it finally did end. So thank you for a review that tells it how it is.

  • William Bontrager

    Great review. This movie had nothing interesting. I hope it didn’t win any awards but I have a shivering suspicion that the mind numb mainstream media lauded it. Honestly, I think that Scorcese made this movie to have no morals on purpose. I think this is what is going on in Hollywood and we are being greeted with empty characters, no build-up, and since we are used to instant gratification from technology we have lost judgement for stories and instead remember individual scenes. I have seen this from the younger generation especially, and trashy directors have taken advantage. Yes..this was a terrible movie.


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