Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks at Martin Scorsese’s most recent musically-packed epic, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Originally published on – December 23, 2013.

Martin Scorsese has never been afraid of a full soundtrack.

So, when he dropped the first trailer for his latest offering The Wolf of Wall Street (which hits screens on Christmas Day) earlier this fall, it felt like the type of film that he and his musical crew would be able to have some fun with.

After all, the trailer featured giant yachts, drugs and sex, cash being thrown around and even the tossing of – ahem – “little people”. And to top off the theme of excess, the whole operation was scored by Kanye West.

The movie itself is pretty much what the trailer leads one to expect. It’s three hours (yes, three hours) of debauchery and just about every second of it is accompanied by a carefully chosen soundtrack selection. Scorsese teams up with frequent musical supervisor and former Band-leader Robbie Robertson and jams the whole epic with his busiest soundtrack since 1995’s Casino … possibly his busiest ever.

Scorsese follows a template to which he’s long subscribed by starting the film off with older soundtrack selections. The opening 20 minutes are heavy with the blues with the likes of Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf helping Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort introduces you to his fabulous life.

The music picks up a modern edge as the film progresses and Belfort gets his scheme in motion. He hustles, cons and spends his way through the 80s and early 90s to time-frame-appropriate tunes. The soundtrack even modernizes for a typical Scorsese outings, avoiding heavy reliance on the traditional Motown and 1960s stand-bys and going for modern artists like Devo (whom he used in Casino, to be fair), Cypress Hill and even Foo Fighters.

There are a lot of ways to classify Wolf of Wall Street, but the best may be “excessive”. That’s not meant in a bad way but everything the film has, it has in spades: sex, drugs, money, action and – yes – even the music. But like any good Scorsese film, the tone changes as the story develops, giving each character and scene a theme of its own.

The music doesn’t always blend seamlessly from one scene to another, but Scorsese has always been more concerned with thematic and tone for his musical selections than he has with a smooth transition. For evidence, cue up GoodFellas’ manic sound collage that accompanies Ray Liotta’s paranoid helicopter pursuit (Viewer discretion advised due to NSFW language).

Still, the musical choices are always bold and always entertaining. There’s some familiarity, but there’s plenty of the unexpected as well, including an Italian cover of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria”. Prepare your eyes and ears for a packed three hours if going out to see The Wolf.

In the meantime, enjoy a selection I particularly enjoyed: a personal theme of sorts for Jean Dujardin’s Swiss banker character, Jean-Jacques Saurel.