Lord Of War

on September 16, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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Gun-running is bad and the people who do it aren't nice. That, in a nutshell, is the message in Andrew Niccol's preachy and moralizing drama that is a faint echo of the similarly themed but far superior 1981 film "The Dogs of War," which featured a superb and subtle performance by Christopher Walken as a morally conflicted gun-runner. Nicolas Cage, giving a lazy performance, is the main player here, a Ukrainian-American named Yuri Orlov who, initially facing the camera and narrating throughout the movie, tells the story of his entry and quick rise in the world of the gun-runners who fuel all the wars and conflicts taking place across the globe. Yuri, however, also craves some respectability, which comes in the form of a wife, Ava (Bridget Moynahan), whom he seduces under false pretenses, posing as a successful, above-board businessman. Unlike Ava, however, his honest but drug-addicted brother Vitali (Jared Leto) isn't prepared to look away from how Yuri really makes his dough and functions as the conscience of the film, a dreary conceit in an obvious movie.

Contrived, predictable and for the most part dramatically wan, "Lord of War" does hint at an absurdity beneath the proceedings, evident in some clever lines and imaginative situations. Had Niccol opted to play up the surrealistic, blackly comic aspects of his tale, he might have crafted a witty "Dr. Strangelove" for the 21st century. As it is, his film, whose timeline conveniently skirts 9/11, is mundane at best, and a waste of good actors such as Leto and Ian Holm (as one of Yuri's rivals), and bad ones, like Moynahan, who's typically dull. For a movie dealing with so much explosive firepower, "Lord of War" is a damp squib. Starring Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ian Holm and Ethan Hawke. Directed and written by Andrew Niccol. Produced by Phillippe Rousselot, Andrew Niccol, Nicolas Cage, Norman Golightly, Andy Grosch and Chris Roberts. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Rated R for strong violence, drug use, language and sexuality. Running time: 122 min

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