|Lord of War (2005)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ian Holm
Director: Andrew Niccol
Director Andrew Niccol’s latest film, “Lord of War,” is one giant public service announcement on the how-to of gunrunning. It even opens with the following statistic: “There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That’s one gun for every twelve people on the planet.” And in sticking with the reality of the subject matter, Niccol also states that his film is based on actual events, so much so that the hyperrealism is unsurprisingly more enjoyable to watch as a narrative than if a documentary were made on the same topic. The fact that Niccol borrowed actual weapons of war from real life gunrunners just days before they were shipped for use in real wars gives you but a small taste of the comical irony surrounding this film.
Nicolas Cage displays flashes of brilliance as narrator and protagonist, Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian immigrant who suddenly realizes the incredible demand for guns after witnessing an assassination attempt at a local restaurant. Following a few amateur transactions with the help of his little brother Vitali (Jared Leto) and a quick visit to the Berlin gun show, Yuri gets to work on arming the other eleven people currently without a firearm. It takes him just under a decade to build his empire, but not without some serious heat from Interpol agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke), who believes that guns like the AK-47 are the real weapons of mass destruction.
”Lord of War” is a dark, dark satire on the world of warfare, and Niccol’s script does a fantastic job without taking sides. There are characters that strongly renounce the practice and others that believe it is a necessary evil. The best material comes directly from this satire, and Cage milks the opportunity to jest in his jazz-lyrical style of narration. That is until the milk turns sour about midway through, and the film takes a turn for the worse. Instead of learning more about the business from Yuri as if he was reading selections out of “Gunrunning for Dummies,” the audience is dropped into a mini plot involving Yuri’s relationship to the whacko, self-pronounced President of Liberia (Eamonn Walker).
Sir Ian Holm and Bridget Moynahan also co-star as a competing gunrunner and Yuri’s trophy wife, respectively, but this is ultimately a one-man show, and no one can steal the stage from Cage, whose mostly levelheaded Yuri might be his best work in years. Despite the relatively large production cost, Niccol must know that “Lord of War” isn’t going to attract the average moviegoer into theaters, and yet the trailer screams action adventure thriller with a hint of comedy. This is anything but, though it should please anyone with an acquired taste for Michael Moore faux-docs and past overlooked films.
The two-disc Special Edition of "Lord of War" isn't exactly teeming with bonus features. Aside from a yet undetermined number of audio commentaries (with no specific details as to who's involved), a making-of featurette, and a "Brothers in Arms" documentary, the only features include delete scenes and a single production featurette ("Weapons of Trade"). Is this enough for the two-disc fair? We certainly don't think so.