Most reviewers praised the frenetic pacing and bravura sequences of bacchanalian revelry, even as a handful griped that the story of broker Jordan Belfort‘s rise and fall lacked the dramatic resonance of Scorsese’s earlier masterpieces such as “Goodfellas” and “Raging Bull.”
The orgiastic examination of high finance arrives in theaters on Dec. 25 with enough Bolivian marching powder on screen to redefine the term “White Christmas.” In addition to DiCaprio, the A-list cast includes Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin and Matthew McConaughey.
Some reviewers have yet to weigh in, but the picture currently enjoys a sterling 93 percent “fresh” rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde hailed DiCaprio’s performance as “extraordinary” and found the film to be a galvanizing trip even if the final destination is a little less glittering than he had hoped. He also felt the film suffered from a lack of interest in explaining the financial wheeling and dealing that ultimately landed Belfort in jail.
“Scorsese, it bears noting, still has one of the deepest bags of tricks of any filmmaker working today, and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ sees him still reveling in them,” Duralde wrote. “This may fall a few points under his blue chip offerings, but I never felt shorted.”
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone declared “The Wolf of Wall Street” to be one of the year’s best, praising the script by “Sopranos” maestro Terrence Winter and the performances of DiCaprio and Hill.”
“Scorsese’s high-wire act of bravura filmmaking is a lethally hilarious take on white-collar crime,” Travers wrote. “No one dies, but Wall Street victims will scream bloody murder.”
It’s the funniest film of Scorsese’s career, Tom Huddleston argued in Time Out. He found the boardroom speeches, drug-addled orgies and lavish parties to be an ideal vehicle for comedy, even if “The Wolf of Wall Street” didn’t cut as deep as other films by the director.
“The big set-pieces – a coke-fueled lecture from an unscrupulous Matthew McConaughey, a squirm-inducing encounter between DiCaprio and Joanna Lumley on a London park bench, a Mediterranean cruise that goes horribly wrong and, most memorably, a grandiose slapstick sequence involving a sports car and a fistful of vintage quaaludes – are among the most memorable of Scorsese’s career, rivaling ‘Goodfellas’ for sheer vitality,” Huddleston wrote. “The result may not be the most measured take on the ongoing financial crisis, but it is without doubt the most entertaining.”
Variety’s Scott Foundas wrote a genuinely admiring appraisal of Scorsese’s deep dive into balance sheet blowouts, but suggested that the film, which was pushed back from an original November opening to December, needed more time in the editing suite.
“Even when the movie is really cooking (which is often), there’s a feeling that scenes are being held for a few beats too many, that Scorsese and his ace editor Thelma Schoonmaker simply didn’t have enough time to do the elegant fine-tuning they’re accustomed to (an impression reinforced by several conspicuous continuity gaffes and badly matched cuts throughout the film),” Foundas wrote.
The film won’t win points for subtlety, which is just fine with Rex Reed. It’s loud, garish and excessive, which is exactly the point, the New York Observer critic argued.
“Did I say over the top?” Reed wrote. “I meant over the moon. Against my better judgment, there were times in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ when I was over the moon myself.”
Not everyone was left orbiting the earth. The New York Post’s Lou Lumenick panned the film as bloated and indulgent — though never boring.
“Naked Hookers! Cocaine! Quaaludes! Hookers and cocaine! Quaaludes and hookers! Dwarf tossing! Naked Leonardo DiCaprio with a candle in his butt! Leo snorting coke from a hooker’s butt! Rinse, repeat . . .,” Lumenick wrote, summing up the movie.
It’s either a rollicking party or a hangover waiting to happen. Everything depends on your perspective.