QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
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The Wolf of Wall Street

I saw American Hustle in the theatres but waited for DVD to watch this. Seems like the right choice. I split the viewing up over two nights since it was so damn long. (My intermission point was the blackout on the airplane, about 100 minutes in.)

There are a couple of pieces of great acting, some excellent camera work in places, and a very believable feel to a lot of it. It's also very clearly one-sided, takes protraying excess to excess, and in all that time still leaves some key points unexplained. I'm going to comment about the one I found most extreme.

This is a minor spoiler if you haven't watched, but since it's been so long I'm assuming readers won't mind. But a bit of space.

Belfort wears a wire and warns Azoff not to incriminate himself via a written note. Later the FBI has the note in a plastic bag when they come to arrest Belfort. It is never explained how the FBI got that note. There are several possibilites: Azoff was also already working with the FBI and gave it to them. Azoff decided to work with the FBI and gave it to them because of the note. The FBI found it some other way (going through trash, other informer). It is also never explained what the consequences of the FBI getting the note are. Did finding it trigger the raid? Or was that happening on an indendent schedule? But Belfort still gets a short sentence for cooperating, even though the note suggests he wasn't really cooperating. Huh?

My wife compared this movie to an updated DiCaprio in Great Gatsby, wild parties, significant pool scene, a few other things. We both agreed that the intro should have started later in Belfort's story before flashing back. The movie starts with perhaps the highlight of time, but starting with the FBI arrest during the commercial filming or the final "Sell me this pen" bit would have been more powerful.

Apparently this is a three "fuck" per minute film, I'll give it one and a half out of three.

Final thought: it's not the first Scorsese film to raise the profanity bar

The Raid

I've been seeing people talk about the new Raid: 2. I haven't watched it yet, but the talk did prompt me to watch Raid: Redemption. I don't think there is a single plot point that is not cliche, but the very intense action keeps you well distracted from that. The perhaps most interesting aspect of this movie is taking the scenario of being behind enemy lines with no backup, and putting that in the tightly confined space of a single building.

It's a story of a police raid on a criminal enterprise. The cops start at 18 or 19 people, attempting to capture a crimelord on floor 15 of a large apartment building. The target has only force initially, mostly "spotters", but he has the ability to get reinforcements quickly from both internal recruitment (of residents) and external sharpshooters. Meanwhile the police — for plot significant reasons — have no backup options.

When the alarm is finally raised, after a spotter on floor five escapes, the situation gets nasty. Close fighting with guns, knives, machetes, and hand to hand under a variety of indoor conditions. When chopping a hole through the floor to jump down to an unknown situation is the best of your bad options, you know you have a lot of problems.

The DVD I watched had a lot of special features, a pleasant change from the barely any on many I watch these days. The package boasts "Over an hour", but some of that is putting the same intro/outro sequence on each of the six "video blog" segments. Still, it was good stuff, showing how the director works, how the filming was done (eg, the camera handoff between two DPs for the "hole drop" scene), and talking about budget limitations. In one of his interviews the director, Gareth Evans, mentions that the one vehicle they use on screen is a redressed piece of junk that needed to be push started. He had only one chance to film it getting destroyed.

Raid: Redemption was filmed on an estimated US.1 million budget in Jakarta. It gets a lot of mileage out of that budget. The budget for Raid: 2 is about US million, also in Jakarta. I imagine Gareth Evans found good ways to use the extra money.

Four bullets in five chambers.

The claycat version of the movie was one of the special features on the DVD...

on Youtube

I was reminded of J. G. Ballard's High Rise at one point