Review Roundup - Nothing succeeds like Excess

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

After going into some uncharted territory with the family friendly adventure Hugo, a fun diversion into the history of cinema; Martin Scorsese returns to familiar ground. Ground that is drenched with bodily fluids, where the air is blue and every scene is populated with grotesque yet compelling characters. In a follow up to both Goodfellas/Casino and his previous collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio this is another stylised, self narrated non fiction story about crime and corruption. At nearly three hours, this is a monster just like it's central character; at times it's excessive and extreme. Luckily the proceedings are nearly always entertaining no matter how ridiculous and obscene things turn out to be. In a story about seedy financial dealings and crime it's also surprisingly funny in a lot of places even if most of the the humour is incredibly dark.

 
'I have to return some video tapes'

After some great turns in Inception and Django Unchained, Leo goes one better as wannabe broker turned self made millionaire Jordan Belfort, who after a short lived entry level position in a Wall Street corporation begins his journey to build his own shady stocks and shares business - apparently through hard drugs and charisma alone. It's a mesmerising performance as the small time dealer becomes a narcotics addled money making machine. The idea this guy built up an entire personality cult within a few short years is easy to imagine when the acting seems so effortless. My major complaint is that unlike the rise and fall of Henry Hill, the character arc here isn't particularly strong despite the lengthy running time - early scenes where he is at the bottom level of this questionable game are rushed through while his earlier life is skipped entirely; and his fall never feels like it's that much of a come down. Success comes too quickly, and when it all goes wrong the recovery at the end seems almost too simple. That being said the series of events are still very engrossing (emphasis on the gross) with a lot of great dialogue and some good supporting cast members. It's never dull even though none of them are in any way sympathetic.

There has been some question on that subject, can you enjoy a film where the central characters are just so detestable; but I never found it to be a problem and spending so much running time in their company never felt like a drag. Quite often it comes across as very natural, perhaps a credit to the screen writer and the actors involved; though a few moments feel perhaps too ad-libbed or allowed to run longer than intended. But restraint is not the subject of the story here after all. The main credit goes to Jonah Hill's Donnie who gets the best interaction with Belfort though there are a lot of good performances, Matthew McConaughey has only a few scenes but leaves an impression early on; and there are fun moments with Rob Reiner as Belfort's conservative but outspoken father. Sure this is no Goodfellas but as a journey into the limits of excess and unsavoury goings on, the trip is a lot of fun.

4/5

BONUS REVIEW
EVIL DEAD (2013)

 
'Should we bury this or lock it away?' 'Ah this bin bag and wire is fine'


So this is just Evil Dead, rather than The Evil Dead. Which is a appropriate, since it gets nasty enough in a few all-out blood spewing sequences but has none of the charm or personality of the original films. In spite of all the skin peeling and limb slicing, it's too boring too often. The weak characters are all written for plot convenience, with a drug addict who won't be taken seriously, a brother to share her family issues, a nurse at hand to dismiss her behaviour; and a spectacle wearing bookworm ready to unleash the demonic spirits on cue. It has none of the humour of Evil Dead 2/3 and none of the low budget experimental vibes from the original where even the camera movements had crazy sound effects. Surprisingly the acting is at times worse than those oldschool outings. Their attempts at adding "more story" to both the characters and the Evil itself just fall flat and come across as lazy A to B writing that adds clich├ęs rather than any substance and exists to move events along. Yes the splatter is here, but I just don't care since everything is so dull. Yes it's about demons, but I don't want my own eyes rolling like someone possessed. Maybe I am desensitised but it's not even that bloody - after all the talk of gore it's just a disappointment, and in the end it has no soul to swallow.

2/5