© Twentieth Century Fox of Germany GmbH

Lord of War - Händler des Todes (Lord of War)
U.S.A. 2005

Opening 16 Feb 2006

Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Writing credits: Andrew Niccol
Principal actors: Nicolas Cage, Bridget Moynahan, Jared Leto, Shake Tukhmanyan, Jean-Pierre Nshanian

Yuri (Nicolas Cage) and Vitali (Jared Leto) Orlov, the children of Ukrainian emigrants, grow up in Brighton Beach Brooklyn, New York, also called Little Odessa. In the 1980s Yuri chooses to sell weapons like some people decide to drive a taxi or sell ice cream. He deals indiscriminately in Africa, Lebanon, Monrovia, Sierra Leona, Libya, the Czech Republic, anywhere there is a conflict. He sells to warlords, who, when they become richer, flashier and more evil, are then called lords of war. Yuri has all the trappings of wealth: the Manhattan apartment, trophy wife and small son, so that we probably should define him as a runner of guns, instead of a mere gun runner. There are a few stumbling blocks along the way. CIA agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) is a pest, buzzing around inopportunely to arrest him. Brother Vitali is too good for the world of death, prostitutes and poverty which come with the business; he becomes addicted to cocaine and bites the dust, literally.

Lord of War is a bad film for several reasons. For example, every line is a cliché. “You have to eat; you have to kill.” “I don’t believe in fate.” “Be careful Yuri, those things you sell kill.” “There is nothing more expensive than peace for a gun runner.” “I don’t care if it is legal; it’s wrong.” “Where there’s a will, there’s a weapon.” “There are two tragedies: getting what you want and not getting it.” “Never go to war, especially with yourself. “

If you had time, like I did, to copy all that during a film showing, there must be very little action.

Also, Nicolas Cage seems to be going the way of Kevin Costner and Richard Gere, i.e., staring in flops. Think: The Weather Man. True, here director Andrew Niccol didn’t give him much to work with, but the terrible script can’t be blamed for Cage’s awkward body language and basset-hound gaze into the camera. Please scratch him behind the ears and throw out a bone, but buy a Kalishnikov or an Israeli machine gun? I doubt it.

The music is too flippant for a serious subject, as if selling the soundtrack is means to an end. The one star is for supporting actor Jared Leto, who provides the only bit of charisma. The film ends with, “The UK, the USA, China, France, and Russia are the biggest gun runners in the world and all are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.“ Perhaps that’s supposed to be a call to action, but it comes across as a blessing directed at the U.S. gun lobby: if the big guys own and sell guns, then the little guy can, too. Anyone who spends money on this film should be forced to also watch Lost Children about child soldiers in Uganda. (Becky Tan)

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