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Lord of War | Review

Different kind of Businessman

Seminar on turning empty gun shells into dollars is mildly amusing and suffers from voice-over overkill.

The opening semi-animated sequence displaying the life of a single round of ammunition promises for a film that may speak volumes about third-world exploitation, but despite all the factored-in coolness, a hardly-explored subject matter and witty one-liners delivered by king of cool in Cage, Lord of War doesn’t know whether it wants to be a political satire, a reality check or an amalgamation of both a comedy and a drama. One notch above Simone and several grades below both Gattaca and The Truman Show, Andrew Niccol’s script may be filled with interesting newspaper clippings notes, but the cluttering of meaningless secondary characters and the overabundant use of narration makes this not the savvy discourse that it desires to come across as.

Figuring out the food chain and positioning yourself in just the right spot for the global game of supply and demand is one popular method in which men are made into millionaires. Based on collection of true events, Cage’s Ukrainian immigrant Yuri knows exactly what playbook strategies to use in crunch time, and better yet knows how deal in any currency and any language. This is very much a one-man show and to a certain extent, Cage makes this a manageable watch, but Hawke’s character of a cop happening to pop up anywhere around the globe, a trophy wife (Bridget Moynahan) completely oblivious to her husband’s true profession and a coke-head brother (Leto) who becomes a token of consciousness to the plot hardly add to the film’s arsenal.

Drawing comparisons to how Scorsese explored the Mafioso underworld in Goodfellas, this tell all tale about arms trading does too much explaining – the film keeps track of the score at every inning and at every batter out – leaving very little for the viewer to discover. Niccol could have taken one known fact from the world of arms dealing (and there are some remarkable insider ones) and construct one solid story, but instead this tale globe-trots around, and is content in delivering several witty and unknown facts by way of a lone anti-hero in a well-pressed suit.

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It’s too bad that some smart fact-filled dialogue had to be accompanied by the lame drama in the protagonist’s life. It’s too bad that the story couldn’t spend more time in the world’s hotspots thus putting into the foreground the callousness and shallowness of the title character. While the narrative spends so much time in Yuri’s shoes, we hardly get the aspired glimpse into the true mindset of the persona. With the right tone, Lord of War could have been the intelligent contemporary political and social statement that made David O. Russell’s Three Kings such a poignant find.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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