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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 EricDSnider

"Fine performance, good ideas, half-decent film."
4 stars

Yuri Orlov is a gunrunner. An arms dealer. An amoral mercenary who supplies all the world's major conflicts with the weapons and ammunition they need to enact their violence. He says he doesn't take sides. He'll sell to both sides of the same war, if possible. When a gun is fired, he doesn't hear BANG. He hears KA-CHING.

This is the anti-hero of "Lord of War," a dark, uneven satire written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Niccol has written and directed two previous films, "Gattaca" and "Simone," and he wrote another one, "The Truman Show." All of those films had lofty concepts centering around a big lie of some kind. In this case, the protagonist is both the liar and the victim. He's lying to himself.

Nicolas Cage plays Yuri, a product of Little Odessa, a Ukrainian neighborhood of New York's Brighton Beach, where he saw plenty of Russian mafia activity during his formative years. It occurred to him as a young man that someone who trafficked in guns and ammo would be assured a wide customer base. The urge to kill one another is almost as basic as the urge to eat, and nearly as ancient, too.

So in the early 1980s, he begins his operation, taking his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) along for assistance. Yuri tells us in narration that he supplied weapons to almost all your big-league despots and warlords in the '80s. ("I never sold to Osama bin Laden. Not on any moral grounds; back then he was always bouncing checks.") Simon Weisz (Ian Holm), the richest underground-arms dealer in the world, tells Yuri he can't do business that way, selling to absolutely everyone. "You have to take sides," he says. Yuri ignores him.

The story takes us through the '80s into the '90s. The end of the Cold War dried up some markets for Yuri, but as luck would have it, Africa was brimming with dictators and madmen who needed weapons. It puts him on the wrong side of the law, but the U.S. federal agent (Ethan Hawke) who doggedly pursues him can never get anything to stick. (Conveniently for Yuri, and for the film's storyline, this particular lawman is too by-the-books to even BEND the law in order to catch him.)

Yuri has a wife, Ava (Bridget Moynahan), who doesn't ask questions and who enjoys her wealthy lifestyle. She's from his old neighborhood, though she doesn't remember him. "She didn't know I existed," he says. "I was starting to think she had a point."

Sharp writing like that, and some deft cinematographic tricks -- like the opening sequence, which shows us a bullet's point of view from production to firing -- suggest a film much better than this one actually is. For while at first it seems to be a dark satire, it shifts later, when Yuri develops something of a crisis of conscience -- a fact that is meaningless to us because we don't care about him as a character. He's not a person, he's a type, and so his inner turmoil is dramatically ineffective.

But Cage is good, somewhere between his Very Serious self (e.g., "Leaving Las Vegas") and his Wacky Unhinged Self (e.g., "Honeymoon in Vegas"). To the extent that the caustic, pessimistic script allows it, he remains in touch with the audience, giving us what we want: a few grim laughs and some scary ideas. I just wish the film made its points about guns and governments better, and less heavy-handedly.

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originally posted: 09/20/05 18:14:02
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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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