Martin Scorsese reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio for a portrait of greed and degradation in The Wolf of Wall Street
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (18)
Based on the memoir of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a lurid portrait of debauchery following the same misaligned moral compass as Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning 1987 drama Wall Street.
Greed isn’t just good, it’s a cornerstone of this gaudy, hallucinogenic American dream, allowing the unscrupulous to prey on the weak and vulnerable in order to finance flashy apartments, fast cars and copious amounts of nose candy.
It’s hard to believe that 71-year-old Martin Scorsese, whose last film was the family-friendly fantasy Hugo, is the ringmaster of this booze, sex, coke and testosterone-fuelled circus.
The director pulls no punches in his depiction of Belfort’s wild excesses including myriad scenes of pill-popping and a slow motion orgy on a private jet – the film wears its 18 certificate as a badge of honour.
“On a daily basis, I take enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens... for a month,” boasts Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) in his opening voiceover.
He owns a sprawling mansion replete with swimming pool, tennis court and waterfall, plus a white Ferrari “like Don Johnson’s in Miami Vice”.
In flashback, we meet Jordan as he nervously starts a position with brokers at Rothschild, where charismatic golden boy Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) takes the newcomer under his tailored wing.
In the aftermath of Black Monday, Jordan loses his job and is forced to sell penny stocks at a fly-by-night operation in Long Island.
Blessed with the gift of the gab, Jordan excels and decides to open his own firm, Stratton Oakmont, with salesman Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill).
The business goes from strength to strength and Jordan jettisons his wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) to romance blonde bombshell Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie).
Meanwhile, the ‘work hard, play harder’ mantra of Stratton Oakmont attracts the attentions of tenacious FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who resolves to bring down Jordan and his gluttonous inner circle.
As the noose tightens around Jordan’s neck, he involves Naomi’s aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley) in his enterprises and attempts to deposit money in a Swiss bank account overseen by Jean Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin).
The Wolf Of Wall Street howls but doesn’t bite.
It offers us a cautionary tale that revels in Jordan’s triumphs for so long, we almost forget he must get his comeuppance.
Scorsese’s directorial brio coupled with DiCaprio’s twitchy lead performance eases some of the pain of the excessive running time, and the nasty stink of the script’s depiction of women as suckers and sex objects.
While individual scenes pulsate with misplaced youthful exuberance, as a whole The Wolf Of Wall Street and its repugnant characters overstay their welcome.
We hanker for a shower to wash away the grubbiness and grime of Jordan’s enterprises well before the three hours are up.
DEVIL’S DUE (15)
Things go bump in the womb as well as the night in Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s laboured found-footage horror.
Devil’s Due is the unholy union of Paranormal Activity and Rosemary’s Baby – Prenatal Activity, if you will – which employs video camera footage and CCTV recordings to chart the nightmarish experiences of two first-time parents, whose unborn child is the seed of Beelzebub.
A passage from the Bible, which foretells the coming of the antichrist, opens the film and is repeated by a crazed priest as the doomed mother-to-be approaches full term.
Screenwriter Lindsay Devlin breastfeeds her thinly sketched characters clunky dialogue.
She also glosses over gaping plot holes, not least the lost final night of the couple’s honeymoon, which results in Satan impregnating the blushing bride in a cave laden with ancient runes.
The newlywed’s video camera captures this demonic intervention yet the couple don’t review the footage or proudly screen the video for relatives, which would tip the wink about the conception from hell.
Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) has grown up in a family that records every important event on camera so on the eve of his wedding to sweetheart Samantha (Allison Miller), he begins a video diary.
Following a perfect wedding, Zach and Sam jet off to sun-drenched Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where a psychic (DeMaris Gordon) reads the bride’s palm and proclaims, “No family, no past. You were born from death!”.
Zach handily fills in that plot hole with a throwaway line of expository dialogue: “Her parents were killed in a car crash – Sam was cut out of the womb.”
Returning home to American suburbia, Sam discovers she is pregnant, which is curious since she has been diligently taking the pill.
Zach excitedly records the next nine months and notices changes in his wife’s behaviour.
At first, he forgives her fits and outbursts as the nerves of an expectant mother but as the weeks pass and Sam’s mood darkens, Zach realises that something is dreadfully wrong.
Devil’s Due delivers shocks that will be disappointingly familiar to fans of the Paranormal Activity saga.
Directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett engineer a couple of neat sequences like the demise of three teenagers, who stumble upon demonically possessed Sam in the woods.
For the most part, though, they embrace second-hand stylistic conceits including a game of hide and seek played through the lens of the camera in night-vision mode.
Miller and Gilford are solid in roles that demand very little of them.
Their characters ignore warning signs until it is too late, like piles of ash around the home, the disappearance of a friendly obstetrician (Donna Duplantier) and strange figures lurking in the street.
When the bridegroom tells his beloved tenderly, “I promise, I will always protect you, keep you safe,” he might as well start digging them both shallow graves in the backyard.