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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Scattershot and ultimately pointless morality tale."
2 stars

The ads for 'Lord of War' promise a farcical, half-crazy satire on a subject close to no one's heart -- gun-running. Making a living by supplying weapons to chaotic nations is so indefensible that perhaps the movie, we think, will flip things around and find the thrill of it -- the monetary rush, the power.

Writer-director Andrew Niccol, however, has already decided how he feels about it, and he isn't the kind of filmmaker to give you a down-and-dirty rise-and-fall story, like Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas or Ted Demme's Blow. Those movies at least enticed us into complicity with intelligent men who chose to profit from human frailty. Lord of War can't stop reminding us that gun-running crushes the soul; the movie ultimately crushes itself in a vise of self-loathing. Niccol is so busy making the profession unattractive that he forgets to make the film engaging.

Nicolas Cage, as the suave weapons dealer Yuri Orlov, stands amid deep puddles of bullets and tells us (as in the ads) that there is a weapon for one in every twelve people on Earth, and that the problem is closing the deal with the other eleven. Then he smirks. Lord of War is a two-hour effort to wipe the smirk off Yuri's face. After witnessing a botched mob hit in a Little Odessa restaurant, Yuri decides that if people are going to kill each other anyway, they'll always need the means to do it. He begins small, with local gangs, and soon expands his clientele to global gangs -- revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, whoever pays on time. Yuri has no scruples; he's just supplying a product, and what people do with it is their business. He enlists his slacker brother Vitaly (Jared Leto), who becomes his partner as well as a raving coke addict.

The movie's emotional reading is neutral. Other than the fact that the plaintively decent Nicolas Cage is playing him, we get little sense of Yuri's humanity, so we don't feel that his profession is rotting him away inside, even though the script tries to sell that later on. Yuri arranges to meet and seduce a woman (Bridget Moynahan) he's had his eye on since he was ten, and she has no spark or personality aside from maintaining a willing moral blindness to what he really does for a living. Yuri's riches buy him nice things, but we don't get any kick from the American dream realized by deception and blood. Niccol puts Yuri's lavish furnishings on the screen with no comment pro or con. Lord of War doesn't work as a tragedy or as a comedy, especially since Niccol fills the soundtrack with glib, obvious songs that editorialize on the action (he actually puts Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" on when Vitaly starts his habit). Some of Niccol's other touches, like the ka-ching of a cash register on the soundtrack accompanying each bullet shell out of a machine gun, are shockingly puerile coming from a previously sophisticated filmmaker.

Did Andrew Niccol really want to make this movie? His previous efforts, 1997's Gattaca and 2002's Simone, both studied the human effects of technology. He also wrote 1998's overrated The Truman Show, which took the same tack. But Lord of War, which seems like a depressed remake of William Friedkin's 1983 flop Deal of the Century, has only the slightest connection to his previous concerns as an artist. It feels like something he made because the money was there to make it, effectively rendering him as much of a whore as Yuri, though far less dangerous. Maybe Niccol, having fought hard battles to get some intelligent entertainment into theaters, sees himself in Yuri -- sees Yuri as a stand-in for major-studio directors, who foist unpalatable product on people and don't care who it hurts. In that case, Lord of War is a self-hating Hollywood parable with no special insight into its putative subject, no matter how much research Niccol reportedly did.

As for Nicolas Cage, whose name is on the film as a producer, he probably lied to himself as much as Yuri does, telling himself he was making an important film shedding light on the global cycle of violence. But the movie doesn't care much about violence; there's a too-clever credits sequence following a bullet from creation to execution, and it ends its journey by thudding into a blank, anonymous face. The point isn't the life taken, it's the bullet. Cage can't find a consistent tone for Yuri, and he seems awfully constrained, denied either the heroism or the freakiness we know he's capable of.

About an hour into the movie, the great actor Eamonn Walker (of HBO's series "Oz") turns up as a casually brutal dictator who does business with Yuri, and the audience is shaken awake. Walker gives us a violent man, not without humor, who knows exactly what he is and isn't bothered by it. He's so much more interesting than anyone else on the screen (including "Gattaca" star Ethan Hawke, thrown away as a goody-two-shoes agent on Yuri's trail) that he derails the movie by suggesting a complexity far beyond the margins of the rest of the film.

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originally posted: 12/30/06 06:59:46
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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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