Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lord of War

Review by Michael Jaffe

While Andrew Niccol’s visual styling has always since Gattaca been one of the most polished looks in Hollywood, dollar for dollar, and LoW is no different. The film is a bizarre mix of offbeat humor, intense violence and preaching about how guns are bad, while at the same time managing to keep a distinct and engaging visual style. The story is good, supposedly based on a couple of real life gun runners actual stories, about Yuri Orlov and his rise from New York as a Ukrainian immigrant through him struggling through the 80s mostly supplying Africa until the fall of the U.S.S.R.. When the soviets fall, all their extra weapons flood the market with Yuri getting an upper hand and taking all the guns. Yuri then struggles with the success of being the #1 arms dealer in the world fighting with everyone from African lords-of-war to rival arms dealers to his trophy wife to his drug addled younger brother. Nicholas Cage turns in one of his best performances in a while, as this film may appear to be a big budget action flick, but at its heart and its bottom line is a smaller film. Cage, once known as a real actor, now has this reputation as a big budget action guy with The Rock, Windtalkers and Gone in 60 Seconds, began his redeption to a real actor with the great Adaptation and Ridley Scott’s underappreciated Matchstick Men but in LoW he is given the opportunity to play a humanized Satan in an action film, using his charisma to fully display all the flaws of Yuri. The rest of the cast, Jared Leto, Ethan Hawke, Bridget Moynahan and Ian Holm is just background all giving way to Cage who takes the primary role with vigor. The supporting cast, while very talented play basic characters with no depth so it could be said that those characters could be played by anyone. The film also has a tendency to run rather unevenly. At times, the film is a dramedy with some explosions and very well written dialogue other times it looks like a European art film, with slow pan shots of people with blank expressions and no talking at all. While they would appear to balance each other out, they simply annoy as during the slow parts, you wish something would just blow up. While the performances, especially Cage stand out and the film looks incredible of celluloid, the unevenness and the lack of depth for the supporting characters leaves you wishing for something more. This film goes under the listing of “If only…” as the whole film is a big what if. 7/10

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