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LORD OF WAR (R) (2005)

Lions Gate Films

Official Site

Director: Andrew Niccol

Producers: Nicola Cage, Andrew Niccol

Written by: Andrew Niccol

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ethan Hawke, Ian Holm


Lord of War is a crime film that tries to follow after the Goodfellas tradition. It tells the story of Yuri Orlov (Cage) from Little Odessa, who decides that the person to be is not the person holding the guns but the person selling the guns. During the movie Yuri grows from some punk selling Uzis out of a camcorder bag to the head of an international arms smuggling operation. Of course his meteoric rise is not without some setbacks, but he manages to emerge unscathed, and in a way that rings false, without ever getting his hands dirty.

As the movie covers a significant portion of time it is forced to rely on one of the most clichéd cinematic tools: the voiceover. A savvier director would have trusted the audience to figure out much of the exposition the voiceover provided, being that the story was so simple and familiar. In the few cases where the voiceover allowed the audience insight into Yuri’s head a little acting would have sufficed, but Andrew Niccol does not seem to have faith in either Nicolas Cage or the theatergoers, so he lays it on thick at times.

In the world of crime, deals occasionally go sour and then there is no higher power to appeal to except firepower, but in Lord Of War Yuri leads a blessed existence in this regard and never needs to resort to the last argument of kings. Yuri transforms from low-life kid to arms dealer extraordinaire with the same ease that Clark Kent doffs his glasses and becomes Superman. If this movie is to be believed then anyone could change their career path to arms dealer at the drop of a hat. Yuri occasionally has some moral dilemmas, but he sidesteps them as quickly as they surface. His only external conflict is with the law, represented by Interpol agent Jack Valentine (Hawke), a cop too squeaky clean to be bribed; by the same token he is too good to break the rules to make his case and thus he is sidestepped just as neatly by the wily Yuri.

Like most film criminals Yuri Orlov does get his comeuppance, but he remains unrepentant and resolutely continues on his path as a merchant of death. The movie tries at times to have some sort of message, but as best can be made out as long as people have an interest in killing each other (always) there will be people like Yuri who stand to gain by facilitating that need. In the end the message just doesn’t matter because no one will be paying any attention to this somewhat pretentious and totally predictable movie.

—Woodrow Bogucki

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