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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

December 31, 2013

WolfpoterRenowned intellectual and media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said “the modern Little Red Riding Hood, reared on singing commercials, has no objection to being eaten by the wolf.” McLuhan’s take on modern society’s willingness to get swindled for the promise of fortune couldn’t have been more spot on. Especially in the case of Jordan Belfort, the real life subject of Martin Scorsese’s triumphant epic The Wolf of Wall Street. At 22, Belfort emerged as a fish out of water venturing from his Bronx hometown to the busy district of Wall Street for his first day as a stock broker. Scorsese stylistically captures how the impressionable, married, still wet behind the ears newcomer becomes enticed by the big world of numbers, drugs, and f-bombs that lay waiting to become his normality.

With his feet planted firmly into the ground of his new job, Jordan is seeded and tended to by the big wigs of Wall Street, namely his boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), until the torrential storm that was Black Monday uprooted him from his dream, tossing him back to the seedlings. Yet, Jordan kept himself emaciated and starved for his next break, soon after becoming employed and working his way up a rinky-dink investment firm in Long Island. Before long, Jordan not only works his way into the pockets of every trusting client on the other end of a phone, but also builds his own company, Stratton Oakmont, from the ground up making millions of dollars and laundering ass loads more, all the while raising a red flag to FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).

The Wolf of Wall Street exposes the ludicrous nature of the famed financial district and the selfish beast that America’s capitalist system has spawned and fed throughout past generations. Scorsese dives deep into a lifestyle that a very small percentage of American’s make their living in. A life in which those of us barely scrapping by, or living comfortable if lucky enough, can’t even begin to fathom. Seriously, can you even conceptualize a million dollars and fully comprehend just how much money that actually is? Then multiply that concept a few times over and understand that that type of money belonged to one man, and is currently in the hands of a very tiny amount of the 7 billion people on Earth today.

Scorsese solicitously puts a face to how much money Jordan Belfort once possessed, while also making a point to remind us that his income is a reality to those in his field of work. We see how this small group of men conned laws and those eager enough to put their trust in them as brokers only to have their funds pinched and put into the pockets of the brokers themselves. While the clients wrestle with failing or worthless stocks, the brokers are getting thousands of dollars a day that gets swallowed down their throats, worn around their wrists, pounded on top of a bed or company desk, popped and/or snorted, and thrown around, because with that much money, why not? Scorsese reminds us that Jordan’s traversing into insane wealth is the nature of a capitalist system and how his scamming is perfectly allowed and ok as long as he can cover his tracks.


Scorsese directs a titan of a dark comedy that follows a day in the life of the media dubbed “Wolf of Wall Street.” Along with a powerhouse collaboration from star Leonardo DiCaprio, the two brilliantly unveil the highs and lows of the young playboy whose addiction to money could almost trump his drug and sex addiction. Scorsese employs astounding directorial techniques to capture the fast paced lifestyle of Jordan reminding viewers why he’s a legend in the realm of filmmaking. Through impressive dissolves and unprecedented usage of crane shots, Scorsese masters a mix of wildly fresh ways of unfolding scenes and employing standard Scorsese-esque tropes. Mind-boggling shots within the office of Stratton Oakmont gives viewers a knowledgeable layout of the office that Jordan built from the ground up, a contrast to the disjunctive, confusing layout of his home, a sentiment that emphasizes where Jordan’s loyalties ultimately lie.

DiCaprio’s astounding performance, which mixes outrageous theatrics and brilliant subtleties, helps perfects our understanding of the charming, cold-hearted Belfort. A man of immeasurable, always impressive talent, DiCaprio nearly out does himself in The Wolf of Wall Street. His intensity can only be measured in gamma rays as he effectively takes on the role of head wolf leading his pack of thirsty stock brokers whooping and hollering at his every command. The range of emotions DiCaprio experiences and conveys in The Wolf of Wall Street is frankly incredible. The passion and drive, the hunger, the love and devotion, the drug addled dazes, the anxiety attacks: all couples together perfectly to round out Jordan as a character and entity. Right under his wing is Jonah Hill playing the hilariously over the top right hand man of Jordan, Donny. With large, ivory veneers, a Brooklyn accent, and a drug addiction almost as violent as Jordan’s the two make a duo almost as comically destructive as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.


Aside from the phenomenal job of direction and brilliant performances from major and supporting actors (Rob Reimer, Jon Bernthal, PJ Byrne to name a few of the many) The Wolf of Wall Street’s importance lies in its narrative that chronicles the abjection of gross wealth. Jordan has more money than he knows what to do with. So to utilize the obscene amount he spends lavishly: $26,000 on a single dinner, using $100 bills to snort cocaine, buying yachts, throwing parties where beer bong is played with Whiskey, taking up to 20 Quaaludes a day, doing morphine, and more cocaine. What’s most intriguing is that this isn’t just Hollywood glamour. The real life Jordan Belfort was making millions of dollars to buy and destroy objects that no human being needs. And for doing what for society? Jordan and his ravenous pack of followers weren’t doctors, or missionaries, or teachers, or scientists, or researchers, or service workers, or artists, or builders, or inventors or intellectuals. Hell, most the guys Jordan brought along for the ride hadn’t even finished high school. No, they were stock brokers, a profession that does nothing more than risk other people’s money for personal gain and the government allows it because it’s an integral part of our questionable system.


The Wolf of Wall Street is a near three-hour divulge into the life of a playboy, but that life’s message rings through loud and clear. Money can’t buy happiness. For some it gets damn close and if a life wearing $3,000 Armani suits and driving Ferrari’s aren’t your cup your tea, then the life led by Jordan will be both fascinating and disgusting. For some, Jordan’s only flaw will be that he was too drug addled to do the job right, because for some being rich and miserable sure beats the hell out of being broke and miserable.

However, the question is whether you choose to lose yourself in the process of gaining wealth and if morals means more than money. Sure, the film’s about a half hour too long with a few scenes that do nothing to advance the plot, and sure I didn’t fully understand Jordan’s line of work because the breaking of the fourth wall often glazes over the explanations of it. Regardless, The Wolf of Wall Street is a powerful critique on our current system. Some may applaud Jordan’s struggle to get rich and trashed or die trying, while others will laugh and scoff at the theatrical lifestyle. Either way, The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t a passive watching experience, it gets into your head and sticks with you whether you want it to or not.

SEE IT. Then debate what you’d do with millions of dollars? Would you help the world or just your own?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Joc permalink
    January 8, 2014 3:02 PM

    This article is ingenious and very revealing of your intellect. I am going to see this movie because of you. Thank you!!!

    • January 8, 2014 8:19 PM

      Yay!! Please let me know when you do, I’m interested to hear what you think. It’s been getting some mixed reviews but I think it’s brilliant.

      • July 26, 2014 12:23 AM

        I’ve seen the film and it was great.


  1. A Year of Films to See and Avoid (2013) | The Cinephiliac

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