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Lord of War (DVD, 2006, 2-Disc Set, Special Edition)
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Happiness is a warm gun (Bang bang shoot shoot).
Sep 18, 2005
Review by jeff_wilder78
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Entertaining and somewhat humorous (in a Swiftian way).
Cons:Story itself doesn't reveal anything new.
The Bottom Line: Hits its target well.
It may come as a surprise to discover that Nicolas Cage's international arms dealer isn't the most disagreeable character in Lord Of War. In fact, it may anger some to discover that his character is in fact an anti-hero of sorts. It may irritate them that he is generally not a condescending, elitist, annoying prick like the Interpol Agent on his trail and thus we wind up sort of cheering for him at a crucial point in the movie. It may offend quite a few (especially those of the social conservative leaning) that the movie can be morally ambiguous about a very serious subject. Then again, movies have been doing that for as long as movies have existed, so that's nothing new.
Recommend this product?
Back to where I was going in the first sentence of the previous paragraph. The most detestable character in Lord Of War is an African dictator (Eamon Walker), who likes to make grandiose yet grammatically incorrect (by traditional English standards anyway) statements. Not long after he meets Cage for the first time he makes reference to a "bath of blood".
"That's bloodbath" Cage corrects him. But Walker is unfazed. Later on, he makes reference to himself as a "lord of war". "That's warlord" Cage replies. But Walker insists that he prefers his way of saying it. Walker is easily the most evil character in the film, not because of his fracturing of the English language. But because of his gung ho massacring of innocent people. Although his son is just as bad and his asking of Cage if he can get him a "Rambo gun" had me thinking of Quday and Uday Hussein.
Whatever faults one can find with Lord Of War, lack of entertainment is not one of them. This is a story that keeps the viewer involved from beginning to end, one that never allows an audience member to look at their watch (or run to the bathroom to make up for drinking that large Barq's Root beer before going in for the matinee). The film seems to be aiming (pun intended) to work as a sort of Swiftian satire of the international arms business and on that level it works. Yet much of the story seems ripped directly from recent news headlines and indeed, we are told before the ending credits roll that the film had its basis in real life events. This kind of undercuts the satirical feel of the story and in fact adds a certain element of preachiness that doesn't quite work. Satire is supposed to make the point. When one writes a satire, they should not have to add a note at the ending explaining what the point was. If they have to do that, then the satire has failed.
The story itself begins (after a prologue that shows a bullet being manufactured and then being used (although we don't see the effect of the bullet as it was shown in Three Kings as George Clooney described it)) with Yuri Orlov (Cage) telling it in flashback. We learn how Yuri along with his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) migrated to the US from the Ukraine when he was a kid. We get some of those childhood flashback scenes that are fairly amusing if rather routine. Then we get into the real meat of the story as Yuri sets out to be the biggest arms dealer in the world.
The film never really makes Yuri into a full-fledged bad guy. He's more of an anti-hero. We don't really empathize with him, although he is eminently more likable than most of his competitors or the scoundrels he sells to. Another one who is less sympathetic is Interpol Agent Billy Valentine (Ethan Hawke). We should be rooting for him to bring in the bad arms dealer. But Valentine comes off as a cocky prick and so we can't help but enjoy it as Yuri outsmarts him again and again.
Perhaps the most sympathetic character in Lord Of War is Vitaly. He comes off like something of a ne'er do-well compared to Yuri. But at heart he's a generally decent person and in the climax, he shows that he's the one character in this film with real heart. Most of the other main characters (aside from the two brothers and Saddam and his kids) fade into the woodwork for long stretches of time.
While Lord Of War is good at condemning the practice of weapons trading it doesn't offer much in the way of solutions. In that regard, it's almost like a Michael Moore film (albeit somewhat more inventive than the approach Moore would probably take, although the ending note about the US, France, China, Great Britain and Russia being the words largest suppliers of weapons is pure Moore). But like Moore's films, agree with them or not, you can't say the final result isn't entertaining and on that level, Lord Of War is successful. Successful enough to merit a recommendation even if it isn't quite the sharp-edged polemical knife it could've been.
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