The first paragraph of this review will be spoiler free. I like this movie, a lot, and highly recommend it for anyone who isn't forbidden from seeing R rated movies. It shows, better than any movie I have ever seen, the true behavior and mentality of those who run our economy and who play tiddlywinks with the life savings of Timmy the Muggle. There is nudity, drugs, swearing and some violence but it is in the context of those who so arrogantly call themselves "The Masters of The Universe."
If you are familiar with Jordan Belfort, there are no spoilers. If you are not, you should be, and this movie will educate you. But I will give you the crib notes version. The most important line of the movie is when the tiny tiny little FBI man who thinks he is doing justice goes after the admittedly semi sociopathic Belfort, and Belfort tries to bribe him by saying he knows where the bodies are on wall street and talks about unregulated commoditized real estate...and he is ignored. Belfort is not a hero. He is barely an anti hero. You see the good things he does, Capone-like, in changing the lives of the people he helps. At first, nothing he does is illegal, just immoral. He shows the ethos of con men from Nigera to Colorado Spring, who take "suckers" who want to get rich with no effort, and then views his efforts around government rules like IPO's as justified.
Is he wrong? The government in this movie is set to let Belfort go if he goes through a few theatrical motions of stepping down from power at his firm. As Belfort himself complains, his crime as prosecuted is not that he cheated Timmy the Muggle, but that he went after Draco Malfoy the trust fund brat...and got him. Tiny FBI Guy isn't getting anywhere until Belfort lets go of the deal offered by the SEC and is told,"he's back in the ocean, Happy Fishing."
The real lesson, well hidden but still there so even Timmy the Muggle can understand it, is not that this is some morality tale like Greed or most other movies that portray Wall Street, but a slice of life documentary drama that just happens to focus on the most hilarious aspect of our culture. Some folks went to jail, but Belfort does only 18 months in a minimum security facility and ends the movie performing sales seminars to rooms full of Muggles. Muggles who all want to be like Befort.
Belfort's entire crew were Muggles taught by a master. The fancy guys who dress up in suits and play tiddlywinks with Timmy's 401K call Timmy's money dumb money. Why dumb? Because Timmy thinks Tiny FBI Guy is going to protect Timmy's money. But at the end of the movie Tiny FBI Guy is just riding the subway home with the rest of the muggles. Tiny FBI Guy never GETS near the real Masters of the Universe because he is leashed and muzzled.