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.