Spoilers will be armed and dangerous.
Continuing on the same vein of the previous Slightly Odd movies, is another film where the protagonist is the antagonist in the real world. In this case, we’re looking at the gunrunner, the dealer of weapons to all the main conflicts going around in the world. Again, this one is not an independent film, but another mainstream feature with top casting. The movie starts by walking the line between a dark comedy and a drama but ends up going for the dramatic angle. When we’re talking about making a living by selling guns you have to take sides at some point.
Lord of War (2005) was written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Ukranian immigrant Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage) decides to go into the business of selling guns dragging along his younger brother Vitaly (Jared Leto). Along the way he makes friends and enemies while dreaming of hooking up with model Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan). Hot on his trails is Interpol agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke).
As most movies of this type, we have to start with some fourth-wall-breaking narration as an introduction, which will appear from time to time. Contrary to the previous offerings, we’re not necessarily trying to endear this character to the audience but it’s still Nicholas Cage although he doesn’t go full Cage here. Heck, even Jared Leto is a more tame performer here. They do have some brotherly chemistry, Yuri being the “successful” one while Vitaly easily gets hooked up on drugs and hookers. Yuri is more functional, but even he is shown to lose the little control he has.
The world of the arms dealer is surreal. A trading show in Berlin in the 80s looks very much like an American auto show, with loud music and models in skimpy camouflaged clothing amongst tanks and jets. The movie does not hide the seedy underbelly of selling weapons to dictator regimes in war-torn countries. When Yuri is “invited” to do business with the ruthless leader of Liberia, Andre Baptiste (Eamonn Walker), he gets picked up by his son, Andre Jr. (Sammi Robiti) in a convertible brandishing a gold AK-47 and accompanied by two cheerleaders.
Yuri tries to build his own world after paying off a failed photoshoot complete with an empty luxury hotel for Ava Fontaine and himself. In this world, he gets to marry the model and live a life of luxury as he skirts the law at every turn. Unfortunately, he cannot live this double life for long especially since he’s become Andre Baptiste’s favorite dealer. As his past and the law keep coming back for him, Yuri is soon backed into a corner where he’ll have to sacrifice one world for another. As much as he tries to delay making that choice, soon enough fate will make it for him.
Contrary to the other movies, there’s no ambivalence in this film but straight out deceit. You could argue that Yuri’s love for Ava, his son, his brother, his family could be construed as possible tools of redemption. However, in this case his lifestyle of living off the death of many and rubbing shoulders with dictators and fascists makes this protagonist doomed to lose those he care for. Protecting those who you love by lying to them is hardly a road to forgiveness. And so, we are to witness a rise and fall that is really a deception and a reveal of a man who has chosen to gain wealth out of dealing destruction and suffering.
Decent performances by Nicholas Cage and Jared Leto. Ian Holm makes an appearance as a rival arms dealer with some good lines. The surprise was by Eamonn Walker as the intensely dangerous “Lord of War” Andre Baptiste, a man you do not double cross on your life. Actually, you wouldn’t feel safe to meet him even in a lighted street in the middle of the day.
Recommended for drama with some obligatory despair. Although you do get some initial shades of humour in Yuri’s aptitude for double dealing and scoundrel ingenuity, the real life world does hit hard eventually. There’s a lot of misery experienced by the victims of Yuri, albeit indirectly, in the hands of the scumbags that buy his deadly merchandise. As much as he wants to turn the other way and built his fantasy life, he’s very much at fault for what he does and the movie does not excuse him. He’s considered a necessary evil by those who can still manipulate their conscience into believing the arms race can actually be won.
That will do for now.