Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) wants to be a stockbroker on Wall Street. He starts off his career under the tutelage of a seasoned pro, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey). Among the lessons Jordan learns from Mark are that cocaine and hookers are his best friends. They are the only way he will make it as a stockbroker.
When the stock market tanked in 1987, Jordan loses his job. He takes the only trading job he can find, at a small firm that sells penny stocks. When he learns that he gets a 50% commission on the penny stocks, a huge jump from the commissions he made on blue chip stocks, he puts his salesmanship to work. His ability to sell anything to anyone has him earning money hand over fist. Jordan does as any young, ambitious, newly rich man would do and enjoys his new lifestyle.
Jordan, always looking for more, gets the brilliant idea to open his own firm trading penny stocks. He takes some of his acquaintances – none of whom are very good salesmen, most of them have less than legal careers – and trains them to sell. Being such a great teacher, the firm quickly becomes successful. As they start to grow even larger, they decide the firm needs a new image to compete with the big firms on Wall Street. Stratton Oakmont is born.
As Jordan and his friends becomes ridiculously wealthy off of their not exactly legal trading practices, their lifestyle becomes more lavish. Parties. Drugs. Booze. Hookers. Drugs. Lots of drugs. The drug of choice is Quaaludes. This is how they come up with their best financial ideas.
Stratton Oakmont’s quick rise to riches catches the attention of FBI agent, Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) who begins investigating the firm. When things start to get serious, Jordan realizes that he must do something to hide his massive fortune before the FBI can seize it.
The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort. As with most true stories, I’m sure the story was amped up a bit to make for a more exciting movie.
The biggest downfall of taking some creative liberties with this story is that it also amps up the run time. At just under 3 hours, The Wolf of Wall Street is extremely long. Probably the longest movie I have seen. And it feels every minute of 3 hours. It gets to the point where you start to lose interest because you just realized that you still have an hour and a half left of the movie, and the story is nowhere near done. If they would have shaved off half an hour or so, I probably would have enjoyed it more.
That isn’t to say it isn’t a good movie. It really is. Leonardo DiCaprio sells the role of Jordan Belfort as well as Jordan Belfort sold his clients the penny stocks. He does an excellent job. Jonah Hill holds his own alongside Leo. He brings his goofy charm to the role, providing a good amount of comic relief. The rest of the cast fills in nicely, making for a very entertaining movie.
The visual style of the film helps you experience the lavish lifestyle these young men enjoyed. The way the film explains the effect of Quaaludes is effective, and, at times, hilarious. As this is a film about the extravagant lifestyle enjoyed by insanely rich young men in the 1990s, expect the majority of the film to center around drugs, swearing, and nudity. If you’re easily offended by any of that, you will want to steer clear of this movie.
If you can muster up the attention span to get through the movie, it is definitely worth watching. A good story, good execution, and great performances.