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7 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Lord of War
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by brianorndorf

"Preachy, but inventive"
4 stars

Nicely aided by slick, inventive filmmaking by Andrew Niccol, “Lord of War” manages to overcome its preachy attitude to form a calculated, message-minded drama that is routinely entertaining.

Ukrainian immigrant Yuri (Nicholas Cage) is bored with his life in Little Odessa, and is looking to jumpstart his fortunes. Turning to the highly lucrative world of arms dealing, Yuri finds he has a gift for the business, taking himself and younger brother (Jared Leto) to the top of the game. Finding himself with incredible wealth, the girl of his dreams (Bridget Moynahan), and at the call of every warlord around, Yuri slowly loses himself and his ethics in the selling of chaos. When Interpol agents (including Ethan Hawke, great in a tiny role) come sniffing around, and his relationship with a volatile Liberian leader turns sour, Yuri must confront his criminal life, and question whether he can leave it behind.

Filmmaker Andrew Niccol’s “Lord of War” opens on a decidedly provocative note; a film detailing weapon trafficking, the picture opens with Yuri standing proudly on a sea of spent bullet casings, stretching as far as the eye can see. Following the introduction to our “hero,” Niccol’s camera imagines the journey of a single bullet, from the factory floor to the bloodied head of a pre-teen soldier fighting in Africa, in a CG-enhanced montage that’s about a perfect a directorial move one could make with this dicey material. “Lord of War” announces right from the start that it has something to say, with the inventiveness and an actual budget to back it up.

In fact, “War” is crowded with crisp, imaginative visuals, which Niccol (“Gattaca,” “Simone”) mounts with unusual aplomb. Following Yuri through his 20-year journey as he rises from common criminal to respected trafficker, Niccol and his production crew take every occasion to show off some potent visual flair, padded with terrific CG work. One of the more striking moments of the film is sitting with a handcuffed Yuri in the desert, as he watches, through time-lapse photography, the immediate dismantling by the African locals of the cargo plane that he arrived on. “War” is a customary journey from poverty to criminal opulence, but Niccol’s attention to detail perks up the screenplay, and constantly strengthens the ideas that he’s frantically trying to communicate.

The casting of Nicolas Cage also aids Niccol’s blueprint for “War.” Back in dynamic mode after sleepwalking through “National Treasure,” Cage coolly plays Yuri’s rise to prominence, always making sure to underline his professionalism, loyalty, and cancerous doubt whenever he can. Though backed by a fine supporting cast, this is Cage’s film, and he lives up to the promise of the role beautifully, skillfully weaving through conflict and opportunity like a used car salesman, but burdened with the soul of a pacifist. It’s a complex role, daring the actor to play a greedy scumbag with sympathetic leanings and Cage is one of the few actors around who can pull off that treacherous character structure.

The trouble that eventually befalls “War” is the same that is found in a similar political excursion, “The Constant Gardener.” Both productions have noble intentions and try to convey the message that corruption and death lie all around us, but both films also have a higher dramatic promise to service, which they abandon to preach when all subtlety has failed them. Niccol, after having been so crafty selling his world of greed and dishonesty, finally relents and sends the Hawke character in to spit out some numbers on the gun trade. Admirable? Important? Of course. But also clumsy and deflating. “War” is burly enough to handle the points being hammered, and it didn’t need a rest to spell things out.

“Lord of War” is such a rarity: a message-minded semi-satire with a budget, that it’s worth a recommendation, if only for the fact that it exists in today’s play-it-safe cinema marketplace.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13093&reviewer=404
originally posted: 09/16/05 00:50:12
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User Comments

7/07/10 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
6/06/08 MIchael Navarro Any nay-sayer shouldb ashamed of him/herself! 5 stars
11/22/07 Phil M. Aficionado Slick. Script not as good at the narration. 4 stars
5/28/07 hemant an excellent movie 5 stars
2/23/07 dmitry One of Cage's better performances 3 stars
11/04/06 A Concerned Citizen One of those movies that tells a plot you know, but, in an entirely unexpected way. 4 stars
7/16/06 JenDenmark Another cliche ending...anyone else tired of those? 2 stars
4/14/06 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
3/17/06 MP Bartley Stylish and funny. Sags in the middle, but mostly great, surprisingly cynical stuff. 4 stars
3/05/06 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
2/21/06 mwildema I rented this to kill time, became time well spent. 5 stars
2/19/06 Tanya excellent movie very true to life 5 stars
2/18/06 Abdul cage at his best! no one better could have played the role of uri irlov better... 5 stars
2/15/06 Bottlebigal A total waste of time and money. You won't expect such crap from Cage's movie. 1 stars
2/06/06 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
12/13/05 Corinne I kept waiting for the movie to start. It never did 1 stars
11/24/05 Agent Sands Less like Layer Cake, more like The Long Good Friday. 4 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Very flawed and contrived plot. Interesting tidbits. Great performance from Cage. 3 stars
11/18/05 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
9/21/05 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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