Lord of War is not the kind of movie that I’d normally review. It has a big movie star, Nick Cage, and quite a sizeable budget. Normally, I’d like to review indie flicks Broken Flowers or Lost in Translation.
The reason I sit down to write something about it is simple: it’s a Cinderella story for the director.
The director, Andrew Niccol, is a New Zealander who moved to London and started producing TV ads. He wanted to do movies that “are longer than 60 seconds” so that’s how he ended up in LA. His first screenplay was The Truman Show. Adding Jim Carrey to the roster boosted the budget to over $60M so Niccol had to step down as director. His next screenplay was the modest Gattaca which he got to direct because the budget was about $20M.
Obviously he’s proven a lot with Gattaca because Lord of War has a 40M+ budget. You might think there’s plenty of action to be bought for 40M+ but you’ll be wrong. The movie is not so much about violence as it’s about the middle man in arms dealing.
Enter Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) and his cocaine-addicted brother, Vitaly Orlov (Jared Leto). At the beginning of the movie they’re spending time in their family-run restaurant in Little Odessa. Little Odessa is too small for Yuri so he moved from food to arms. He quickly moves from Uzis to AK47s and then come tanks and attach helicopters.
There are some interesting “encounters” with an FBI agent (Ethan Hawke). “Encounters” because they seem to be there for purely illustrative purposes: here’s three ways to dodge an Interpol team that’s after you. None of these is very suspenseful or new. Rotating the French flag 90 degrees so it becomes a Dutch flag is the only fun bit about these and it probably belongs to the Pirates of the Caribbean.
The movie follows Orlov’s career as he becomes every dictator’s favorite supplier. At one point, Andre Baptiste Sr (of Liberia) says:
Andre Baptiste Sr.: They say that I am the lord of war, but perhaps it is you.
Yuri Orlov: I believe it’s “warlord.”
Andre Baptiste Sr.: Thank you, but I prefer it my way.
The ending (which I won’t reveal) is anti-climatic and takes us to the beginning. Morale of the story: middle men are always in short supply (big demand) in the gun running business. Time for your next career move.
Roger Ebert classifies the title sequence as innovative but frankly it seemed very fake to me. It’s obvious the bullet is a fake because there’s simply no way for it to be in focus without any barrel distortion from the wide-angle lens. Anyway, Andrew Niccol is probably holding his breadth. The movie has yet to break even. It made 24M in the USA and is slated for world-wide release. I suggest you rent it when it comes on a DVD (or search for the Lord of War torrent).