The Wolf of Wall Street is the story of depravity in the modern world of finance. It shows the ugliest side of wealth in our society. We all aspire to great careers, power, expensive suits, lavish mansions, exotic cars, yachts, lots of sex, parties, and adventure. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCapri0) wanted all that, too, and he built it for himself.
He started out as an intern on Wall Street in 1978 and climbed through the ranks quickly. He made himself a name as a super salesman for penny stocks and started his own company Stratton Oakmont. Hiring misfits and hustlers as his lieutenants, led by his second in command, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), he grew his company quickly. He coached his employees to suck every penny they could get out of their prey over the phone. He was an excellent motivator, and his company grew to a thousand brokers in just a few years.
With the American dream came corporate greed, with success and hard-partying came drug addiction, with building ever more wealth came corruption and fraud. Soon the FBI and the SEC came knocking.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a three-hour-long extravaganza of excess, foul language, full frontal nudity, and corporate depravity of the worst kind. Watching it confirms all we fear about Wall Street’s greed and abuse. How can a con man like Belfort make 50 million dollars a year, when a million honest working middle-class teachers barely break 60 thousand. I asked myself who contributed more to society, Belfort and his minions of cheats wearing ties on Wall Street, or the middle-class people I live and work with every day? Watching The Wolf of Wall Street did not make me admire the American Dream as it is illustrated. It made me despise it.
I am sure Martin Scorsese, who directed this movie, had this outcome in mind. I kept telling myself that it can’t really be that bad in the real world, that I was watching a movie after all – fiction – right?
As I watched this movie I didn’t realize that it was based on the book The Wolf of Wall Street by none other than Jordan Belfort, a real guy who wrote about his real life as The Wolf of Wall Street. The real Belfort was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering. After cooperating with the FBI, he served 22 months in federal prison for a pump and dump scheme, which resulted in investor losses of approximately $200 million. Belfort was ordered to pay back $110.4 million that he swindled from stock buyers. He paid back much less than a million so far. Investors are holding the bag. Their $200 million is gone, to yachts, cocaine, hookers, real estate, cars and a lavish lifestyle.
When minor marijuana offenders spend years and years in prison, big mega-criminals like Belfort get 22 months. Then they get out and write books and give motivational speeches.
Our system, after all, does suck – badly. Watch and see for yourself!
Rating: ** 1/2.