(Warning: This review contains Spoilers)

“There is a limit to everything and we believe the Kenyan public deserves better. WOLF OF WALL STREET HAS BEEN RESTRICTED. The film is not for sale, exhibition and distribution is KENYA. Violators shall be PROSECUTED.”

This was the Kenya Film Classification Board’s status update on its Facebook page on January 14, 2015 and since then it is reported that some people have been arrested for selling the film and await ‘prosecution’, whatever that will be.

Despite all these misgivings, let’s look at this situation as lovers of the magical art of cinema. 2013 saw the release of many Biographical films which have garnered widespread acclaim including, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Philips, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is no different.

For a Kenyan generation that spends hours on end watching Nigerian dramas that exhibit no evidence of the use of a script or even a conceivable plot structure and Mexican soap operas whose plots are recurring at best and their romances can only be linked to a world of fantasy, films that showcase the inner workings of the human psyche are a bitter pill to swallow.

The Wolf of Wall Street, just as most of Martin Scorsese’s previous works thrives on its examination of a world hidden in plain sight, or one that most people have closed their eyes to. Just like Taxi Driver examines the world of crime, prostitution and the depravities of the people in the streets of New York through the life of a cab operator, The Wolf of Wall Street does the same only in the corridors of Wall Street and through the life of a stock broker.

“There is no nobility in poverty”, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) warns his band of brokers at his firm in one of his scintillating pep talks. This sounds like a very logical statement, but watching him makes one shudder as you can tell just by watching him that he’ll do anything to be rich. And that’s exactly what he does; he swindles the poor and the rich alike and pockets his millions with no remorse.

From his first day in the stock market industry at S. L. Rothschild where he learns this money making craft from broker Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) and the outrageous lifestyle that comes with it, he never looks back. Even after losing that job, he springs back to his feet and emerges as a wolf preying on the sheepish people who believe that he and his band of misfits at his newly established firm, Stratton Oakmont, have the power to make them rich. Together with his best friend and business partner, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), they exercise some creative accounting in selling stocks they own and raking in millions.

Afterwards they give new meaning to the phrase party like a rockstar as they spare no expense, paying for dozens of hookers, drugs, booze and unconventional games; some may even be considered human rights violations. But according to Belfort, ‘money makes everything better’, even the law, with the exception of the incorruptible FBI Special Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) who has a vendetta against him and will stop at nothing to see Belfort and Co. behind bars.

Eventually things start falling apart. Some of the cash they were laundering is seized by the police and one of their partners arrested. Belfort also gets arrested for driving under the influence, wrecking his car and causing a lot of damage. Belfort and Donnie’s offshore account is in jeopardy when the name holder of the account dies and they labour in figuring out a way to salvage their money. Belfort’s yacht goes on to be totaled by a storm and he, Donnie and their wives almost die but are rescued.

Their luck seems to run out however, when their Swiss banker, Jean Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) is caught for reasons unrelated to Belfort and his operation and in panic, he squeals like a pig, giving details of his association with the ‘Strattonites’, as Belfort and co. called themselves, and this too when Belfort’s near death experience had turned him away from stocks to motivational speaking. So, Belfort got caught and pressured to name his accomplices, which he did for the promise of reduced jail time. He did his time and was supposedly rehabilitated in prison and upon release continued on to be a successful motivational speaker.

DiCaprio delivers a stellar role on Belfort, making one hate his actions but love his fervor and charisma. One would love to take away the yang and enjoy the yin, but that’s impossible and thus goes on to show how great of a character he is. He seems to have mastered the art of character acting judging from his track record, as he took on the role of the wealthy filmmaker and aviator, with a meticulous temperament, Howard Hughes splendidly in The Aviator and then the filthy rich and generous party host with eyes set on the one that got away, Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

As the wolf, DiCaprio delivers powerful and moving speeches to his troops to rile them up for the action of selling stocks to satisfy his insatiable greed for money.

Jonah Hill on the other hand compliments DiCaprio’s charisma with his lunatic behaviors as he is married to his first cousin, he has a knack for obtaining powerful and rare drugs and while throwing a tantrum at an employee, he swallows his fish whole and alive, just before firing him.

Together they deliver a vile comedy whose epitome occurs when the effects of some expired drugs they take cause them to reach the ‘cerebral palsy’ stage where their bodies are numb and their speech slurred and distorted. They enact a very animated scene that has them entangled in telephone wires as flare at each other in argument.

Matthew McConaughey’s role as Mark Hanna may not have had an extended time share but there is no doubting its quality and impact in building Jordan Belfort from the ambitious impressionable salesman from a struggling background to the greedy egocentric titan of the stock market we come to hate and love.

The Wolf of Wall Street is truly and definitely a very immoral affair, revealing stark nudity, incessant drug intake, sex, even to orgy proportions with great relish from the characters that partake in these acts.


Morality is a construct of the society and it would thus follow that the Kenyan society considers their American counterparts grossly immoral seeing that this movie is banned from exhibition in Kenya.

I believe the society should stand the test of its own morality rather than their minds be cloaked by any given body and find an excuse not to reveal their opinions on matters and in this case the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. That said, watch the movie and decide for yourself.

But after getting over the question of morality, let’s seek to understand the director’s mind.

When, three hours had elapsed and I had completed watching the movie, I was irked. The bad guy, here Jordan Belfort won. He didn’t quite pay for his crimes and it would seem he cheated fate. He only spent a few years in prison and came out a ‘changed’ man who becomes a successful motivational speaker. The director had failed in his responsibility as an artist, positively impacting the society. That a man who relished the excessive indulgence in immoral behavior without even a hint of regret would experience an easy time in prison because of his ill acquired money and still leave prison to find success. Well, after considering that story is based on the life of an actual person… I am still very much irked and would not want to see Jordan Belfort’s face anywhere because if this was meant as a cautionary tale, I don’t buy it.

But all in all, the story was riveting and the plot development kept me at my seat for the whole three hours which really just wheezed by and nothing short of genius can be used to describe Scorsese, who made me hate Belfort’s lifestyle but love his life, or vice versa, I don’t know. The fact that am still so conflicted about the effect of this film on me speaks volumes of its brilliance. This will go on to be a timeless classic.


Last Words

Martin Scorsese, America’s widely acclaimed director, having been active in the film industry for more than fifty years and directed countless classics, surprisingly has only a single Academy Award for Best Director despite his whooping 8 nominations. He is second only to William Wyler, with 12 nominations and tied with Billy Wilder at 8. However, these are directors who are unknown to this generation of moviegoers. He is arguably the best director of our time, despite the Oscars only recognizing this for his work in The Departed (2006). His other nominations for best director include, Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), Hugo (2011) and finally The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).

Kimani Wandaka.

3 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on The Unforgotten Factors. and commented:
    I really have to watch this movie. Insight from someone who has watched it.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Though he’s definitely older now, Scorsese still does not disappoint when it comes to making a three-hour long movie. Good review Kimani.

    1. storyzetu says:

      You know what they say about wine growing older… I will definitely be watching out for his next projects- gluing audiences for 3 hours flat is no mean feat!

      And thank you- for reading and commenting too.

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