I woke up yesterday morning to find that late the night before, the first trailer of Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Wolf of Wall Street, had dropped and small, early word was glazed with positivity. I excitedly leapt over to youtube and watched the trailer all the way through…then I watched it again…and then again, and again, and again. I’m not joking. I didn’t yet get my coffee, didn’t yet go to the bathroom, or say good morning to my parents, or even check my email or facebook. For between ten and twelve minutes there was nothing else to concern myself with except for The Wolf of Wall Street, a two-minute and ten second trailer that rocked my world.
Scorsese’s newest stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who gets tangled up in Wall Street corruption and ultimately refuses to cooperate in a large security fraud case linking mob connections to world finance. Based on Belfort’s own memoir, the material on the table is absolutely wild and any slight expectations I had before were totally wiped away once I viewed the trailer. This is not your average Scorsese, or DiCaprio. This is Oliver Stone with dilated pupils, and enough sex and nudity on display to possibly warrant an NC-17 rating – word around the campfire.
Anyway, I don’t want you to have to wait any longer. View the trailer, and then check my reaction to the Wolf below:
DiCaprio/Scorsese in a New Light: Partnerships between directors and movie stars becoming defining stretches for both. What would Tim Burton be without Johnny Depp, and vice versa? How about John Ford without John Wayne? Danny Boyle without Ewan McGregor? Fellini without Mastroianni, Soderbergh without Clooney, Leone without Eastwood, Fincher without Pitt? The list goes on and on. But above them all is what would Martin Scorsese be without Robert De Niro? Scorsese is almost entirely indebted to the shining charisma and legendary talent of blossoming Robert De Niro and in turn Scorsese made De Niro a star from Mean Streets all the way through Casino, culminating in a grand total of 8 partnerings. Though the two have not worked together since 1995, in 2002 Scorsese began a similarly auspicious partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio turning the pretty boy/former Growing Pains star into a gang member, an airplane pilot, an undercover cop, and a mentally fractured U.S. Marshall over the span of 8 years. With The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio and Scorsese enter their fifth partnership and not only is it, again, totally different than anything the two have done together previously, but it’s a great departure from anything that the actor or director have ever done individually. DiCaprio, who has called his leading performance in Wolf his best work yet, was let off the chain in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but Jordan Belfort looks like a whole new monster. Scenes of him sliding on the floor and grasping at dollar bills, screaming into a microphone on the roof of a house party, drunk driving a Lamborghini, and even pop-locking are showing a whole new side to DiCaprio’s performing abilities. I think working without constraint as Calvin Candie in Django gave him a new perspective on performing and I’m eager to see him swing for the fences. Scorsese’s nuances are present in the trailer, but it seems that he’s working with a pace that is of a different speed. While epics like Goodfellas and Casino have a deft fluidity to them, they still find their slower moments, giving audiences time to breathe (Casino, though far less slick than Goodfellas, requires the slower moments with all of the narrative jolts and circles of narration). Wolf seems to do away with those slower moments by keeping the mph at 300, “like the Romans” (as Kanye West’s background track quotes), and this very much excites me. Scorsese handles character breakdowns so wonderfully, you can only smile to yourself at how insane they get sometimes. This entire movie seems like one extensive character breakdown, and all I can say about that prospect is…
“Yeezus Christ:” Totally unrelated to the film itself, but paramount in making this trailer as wowing as it is, is the utilization of Kanye West’s new track, “Black Skinhead.” The second song on West’s new studio album, Yeezus, is a pant of frightening exhaustion as it jumps into a maniacal hook as riveting and as slam poetry-esque as we’ve come to know from Yeezy, and it’s a bedtrack that establishes a definitive tone and rhythm for Wolf’s first trailer. While I remain unfamiliar with the film’s source material, I do believe I have a decent grasp on what lies within its pages and its very different than what I expected Scorsese to bring to the screen. I anticipated a dark character drama, and while Wolf is definitely going to have its dark moments, the trailer shows that it has a twisted comedic side as well, much of it stemming from the fragmented morality of its main characters. “Black Skinhead” is a monster of a song choice for this first trailer and the musical editing provides such a wide-eyed introduction to the world of The Wolf of Wall Street that all I could do was sit there stunned and motionless. The track officially becomes available today, along with the other nine songs on Kanye West’s Yeezus.
Ensemble: Scorsese is no stranger to ensemble films. He’s a director who does something that I love, which is cast big names in smaller parts and familiar faces in the background. The Aviator was full of A-listers, and The Departed, which already boasted a quartet of heavy hitters at the forefront, was rounded out by Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, Martin Sheen, and then-unknown James Badge Dale. You can search within any of Scorsese’s works and find a treasure trove of character actors lending their support to the strong leads. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese has nabbed some true talent and only a sliver of it is peaked at in the trailer. While DiCaprio is rightfully placed center, we see (Oscar nominee!) Jonah Hill jumping headfirst into a new acting challenge and Matthew McConaughey continuing his career revival as a warped associate of DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. McConaughey is actually behind the biggest laughs in the trailer. For all of three seconds, we see The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal taping wads of cash to a nearly naked woman and Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler as a government official – I’d guess IRS or FBI. Meanwhile, Margo Robbie makes the screen melt for a few frames with her striking beauty, and there’s still a host of names filing into the supporting characters that aren’t even momentarily glimpsed. Seeing where Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin, and Rob Reiner fit into all of this mayhem just makes my anticipation continue to grow to unhealthy levels.
Winter is Coming: Writer Terence Winter is an inspired choice for The Wolf of Wall Street because it’s going to challenge him in more ways than one. Aside from it being an adaptation, Winter’s big screen credits only number at two, and neither of them are that notable – a little seen urban drama called Brooklyn Rules and the 50 Cent tentpole, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – but Winter is no stranger to character-centric pieces. Having wrote 25 episodes of HBO’s The Sopranos and being the creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, which will be heading into its fourth season this fall, are surely sufficient credentials, but The Wolf of Wall Street is not a 12-hour layered drama. It’s a 2-3 hour film, and one that seems to possess a pace that Winter’s work is not accustomed to. Boardwalk Empire for all its glam and star power fumbles in its pacing, the show so often slows to a halt that it becomes aggravating. My investment of time never came to any miraculous payoff so eventually, after watching two seasons, I left the Empire, but I do respect Winter and I admire where he’s come from and what he tries to do. When he creates things that work, they really do work, and having a background that contains time spent working with David Chase and Tony Soprano will give you a huge leg up in the scripting business. The Wolf of Wall Street may not have the aesthetic or the time to meander along like Boardwalk Empire does, but Scorsese has good ties with Winter (Scorsese is an executive producer on Empire and directed the show’s pilot) and many times a working technical partnership will give films the push they really need.
So, are you ready to dive headfirst onto Wall Street and become a wolf with Scorsese, Winter, DiCaprio, Hill, and McConaughey? Or are you just searching the far reaches of the Internet to download the rest of Kanye’s Yeezus?
Bring the noise.
Article by Mike Murphy