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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.29%
Worth A Look47.14%
Average: 5.71%
Pretty Bad: 18.57%
Total Crap: 4.29%

7 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Lord of War
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by Erik Childress

"Just Imagine How Much Money He Can Make In The South"
4 stars

The only time the movies has generally dealt with arms dealers, its usually some back alley restaurant owner supplying an action hero with a menu of his arsenal. In, out and on to the killing. No questions asked as to where the guy got the guns or whose side he would be on if the money was right. Yuri Orlov is a man as ambiguous as our fears of the gun trade and Andrew Niccolís latest piece of provocateur cinema takes us behind the scenes and forces us to confront some harsh realities. Itís level of ambiguity is liable to frustrate and lose many audiences and while not entirely successful, may get those same audiences to pay attention where it counts.

Orlov is played by Nicolas Cage who sets his story up as a satire by claiming that a gun exists for every 12th person on the planet. His only question is ďhow do we arm the other 11?Ē As a Russian immigrant (pretending to be Jewish in Little Odessa) Yuri came to understand that, like the restaurant business where people will always need food, other people always need ammunition. With his brother, Vitali (Jared Leto), as his partner Ė the brothers grimmski begin going to international gun shows and making a name for themselves in a world where those like Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm) are already a one-stop shop.

Rather quickly over a couple years, Yuri & Vitali rise up the ranks, learning who to grease (even the U.S. Army gets a taste of the action) and how to evade straight-arrow ATF agents like Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke). Niccol never puts a price on their sales (we usually just see Yuri pounding away on a pocket calculator) but its enough for Yuri to buy out hotels to woo his childhood dreamgirl and beauty queen turned model, Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan). Their relationship is indicative of Yuriís philosophy Ė donít ask, donít tell.

The approach to Yuriís tale is an interesting one as Cage and Niccol never break their poker faces in trying to make him any more or any less than what he actually is. The temptation (and usually the forced hand) is to grow Yuri into a man who despises what heís become or take sides against the evil heís been turning the other cheek on once he receives his check. But thatís not their intention and its as refreshing as it is curious in terms of the storytelling. As is, Lord of War plays like a series of events over a 20-year period with no development into rudimentary opportunities for suspense or action. Yuri is not an action hero or a revolutionary, just another salesman with a family.

There is danger and moments of bloodshed, but never enough to shake the foundation from which Yuri has based his career and two key events in the film speak louder than any words which could have been speechified. One puts a shared gun into the hands of Yuri, proving that a sword is sometimes weightier than the pen when it comes to your competitors, even if you look the other way. The other comes when Yuri finally pulls his merchandise away, not from the clientele who will use it, but from the dying hands of someone who dared to make a difference.

Lord of War may purport to be a satire, but itís not playing on the same level of giddy glee and maverick finger-pointing as Altmanís M*A*S*H or David O. Russellís brilliant Three Kings. Because weíre being asked to supply to attitude to how the material should be perceived, thereís very little room for laughter. Not because weíre being bombarded with the tragic finality associated after Yuri goes home for the evening, but since Niccol has subdued it all down to, well, watching a salesman make his rounds. Thereís no slickness or irony to Yuriís pitch and no suggestions that maybe those we should be crying over arenít worthy of our tears in the first place. Niccol ends the film in 2001 but stays away from Sept. 11. Not once does anyone thrust out the great deflection of the second amendment but Yuri does justify his diversion of all politics by insisting he prefers his buyers fire his guns and miss. As long as theyíre firing.

In a world of immoral certainty, itís easy to pass off anything as a necessary means. Even Niccol has admitted that for the independent production, it was cheaper to buy real guns from overseas dealers than to rent the fake ones; guns, in turn, they then sold. Implicating our own armies in making backdoor deals is slyly suggested and the opening credit sequence is a brilliant concoction; a short piece of film worthy of an award all its own for following around a bullet from construction to its death mark. In its downbeat presentation, Niccol may be suggesting that the gun war, like the war on drugs, just canít be won. At least not with rule-stickling intelligence agencies chasing them down. Lord of War may not be the answer, but it is a nudge to those snoring out there.

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originally posted: 09/23/05 14:07:40
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User Comments

7/08/10 mr.mike Could have been better. 3 stars
8/07/08 Discerning Patron Interesting visuals, but contrived. Ending has a clearly leftist political bent. 1 stars
6/07/08 MIchael Navarro Any nay-sayer shouldb ashamed of him/herself! 5 stars
11/23/07 Phil M. Aficionado Slick. Script not as good at the narration. 4 stars
5/29/07 hemant an excellent movie 5 stars
2/23/07 dmitry One of Cage's better performances 3 stars
11/05/06 A Concerned Citizen One of those movies that tells a plot you know, but, in an entirely unexpected way. 4 stars
7/17/06 JenDenmark Another cliche ending...anyone else tired of those? 2 stars
4/15/06 Steve Newman Best film of 2006 so far - Awesome Apr 06 5 stars
3/20/06 Ryan Decent acting, well scripted, but fails to engage you. 3 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Stylish and funny. Sags in the middle, but mostly great, surprisingly cynical stuff. 4 stars
3/06/06 Indrid Cold Great idea to address such a dour subject with plenty of style and humor. 4 stars
3/03/06 Simon Simply because it provoked discussion with me; otherwise flawed, excessive, over-fantastic. 4 stars
2/22/06 mwildema I rented this to kill time, became time well spent. 5 stars
2/20/06 Tanya excellent movie very true to life 5 stars
2/19/06 Abdul cage at his best! no one better could have played the role of uri irlov better... 5 stars
2/16/06 Bottlebigal A total waste of time and money. You won't expect such crap from Cage's movie. 1 stars
2/07/06 Mary Milan One on Nicolas Cage's great ones 5 stars
1/30/06 WiseMan Not What I had expected due to the Previews, Though it was One Incredible Eye opener. 5 stars
12/14/05 Corinne I kept waiting for the movie to start. It never did 1 stars
11/25/05 Agent Sands Less like Layer Cake, more like The Long Good Friday. 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Very flawed and contrived plot. Interesting tidbits. Great performance from Cage. 3 stars
11/19/05 Jimmy Kustes Not for everyone but Cage has had two great movies in 2005 5 stars
10/16/05 Philip Buckley-Mellor Really liked this film, especially how it doesn't draw too many conclusions. 4 stars
9/22/05 vagile Not flawless but a truly great film. 5 stars
9/21/05 Bentable worth a watch 4 stars
9/21/05 jcjs wow, wow, wow 5 stars
9/19/05 KingNeutron At times funny, but definitely thought-provoking. 4 stars
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  16-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2006



Directed by
  Andrew Niccol

Written by
  Andrew Niccol

  Nicolas Cage
  Jared Leto
  Bridget Moynahan
  Ethan Hawke
  Eamonn Walker
  Ian Holm

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