We’ll admit.. Being the movie fanatics that we are, when the trailers were released for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” everyone from our office crowded around a computer to watch the outlandish, crazed, and intense film directed by Scorsese – and right from the beginning we knew it was going to be quite different than the film already on Attain’s top Trading Movies of All time list – Boiler Room, which also tells the story of Stattford Oakmont.
We know we’re a little bit late to the review game, but we can’t help but add our commentary. Needless to say, we recognize that the film was intended as satire, but missed the mark on pretty much all of it. We’ll get to that in a second…. We’ll start with our initial reaction with “What the **** just happened?”
From the moment the movie begins, the intensity and emotion of the storyline grip you, and it never really stops. We give major kudos to Director Martin Scorsese, as the fast-paced three hour journey is an emotional, anxiety filled build to the punch line, filled with hookers and enough cocaine to kill an elephant, as well as Leo giving his famous speeches to rally his cult called Stratton. However, it’s really the only human emotion displayed by Leo’s character, Jordan Belfort.
If you intend to view the film from a lense of how outlandish and sex crazed can a movie be, this one might be for you. If you chose to view this film as a cautionary tale of what greed can do, this movie is wonderful. If this movie gets you interested in Wall Street and convinces you to switch careers like Johan Hill’s character does, you should probably think twice. And if you chose to view this film as another “rags to riches,” story based on the rise of Jordan Belfort, there might be something wrong with you.
In the first five minutes of the movie, Belfort learns from a senior broker that success on Wall Street is all about doing a line of cocaine at lunch, followed by three or four martinis, and then a conversation that the customer is well… stupid. During this lunch Jordan asks, “Well, if I can make the customer money and make money myself, it’s advantageous to both of us right?” The senior broker played by Matthew McConaughey replies with something of the likes of “f*** the customer, or the customers are sh**.” (we’ll leave out McConaughey’s lecture on his daily sexual routine).
As the film proceeds, Jordan takes this philosophy and becomes filthy, filthy, filthy rich illegally (although the movie never really explains why what Jordan is doing is illegal because that would dampen the audiences forced love for Jordan). Jordan’s first day on Wall Street was during the stock market crash in 1987, where the Dow plummeted 23% in one day. (Coincidentally, we recently reviewed the documentary “Cancel Crash”, which explained how the futures markets saved stocks from its demise). Jordan lost his job, wound up selling penny stocks out of a strip mall, before leaving to start his own firm, which eventually grows to a multi-billion dollar company.
As the movie progresses, Jordan’s attitude towards society and the people in it quickly changes. In one scene, he teaches his employees how to close a sale with someone over the phone while laughing at how idiotic the person on the phone was for buying the piece of crap Jordan was selling (we heard people in the audience laugh along with them… as if they were experiencing it too). This action transfers to his brokers. Throughout the film, they routinely flip off the people they’re talking to on the phone.
Overall, our biggest problem with the film is that even though you know as an audience member that Jordan was stealing hard working people’s life savings, retirement money, and essentially their future – you never really get a sense of the victims’ agony. Jordan was targeting blue-collar citizens, often taking advantage of their investment inexperience.
Not only that, but since Jordan never shows any remorse or thought into his actions, it’s almost impossible to relate to his character, and therefore, learn from his mistakes. The only time Jordan shows a glimpse of emotion is when he’s giving his ever so famous speeches to his brokers about how he gave one of the original “Wolf’s” thousands of dollars in the beginning so she wouldn’t get kicked out of her apartment.
It is clear that the film was supposed to be so outlandish that it was supposed to come off as satire… a sort of high speed, high energy parody of the excesses of the heartless 1% who will mow down anyone in their way to get their jets and yachts. The only problem is… since most of it what happened in the film was true (all taken from the book Jordan wrote giving the firsthand account), and much of it was entertaining enough for those to ignore the fact it came on the scammed millions of normal mom and pop investors; it’s hard to believe the impressionable among us will find it a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t break the law. It’s much more likely the movie spawns copycat scammers – young boys who think that all looks like a whole lot of fun.
To summarize “The Wolf of Wall Street”: There are a copious amount of drugs, hookers, sex, and Leonard DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort throwing $100 bills into the trash to show how rich he was. If you want to see the excitement how insanely rich people spend their cash, this will be a fun movie for you. But is it an indictment of Wall Street? Are people going to come away thinking all stock brokers (advisors as their now called) are like these scam artists and steer clear of owning stocks. That’s doubtful for those already invested in the stock market – but with just 47% of Americans actually invested in the stock market, maybe the majority of people who see this movie will think that is exactly how people on Wall Street work.
The biggest lesson: stay away from penny stocks. Buy some low cost index tracking ETFs and add a managed futures program or two and you won’t need to worry about any Wolf’s of Wall Street.