Lord of War

Here’s a great idea for a movie: a comedy about gun running. A movie that asks what kind of a soul-less, inhuman bastard gets rich supplying weapons to warlords and “freedom fighters” they damn well know are gonna use them to massacre innocent people. A movie that is not shy about pointing out the US government’s participation in this horrible industry. But remember I said a comedy, not some depressing documentary or self righteous oscar bait picture. A dark satire with serious bite, so it gets to you, but you don’t feel like you’re drinking castor oil. It’s more like Flinstones vitamins.

Great idea, but not a great movie. And maybe I’m losing my touch, but like THE BROTHERS GRIMM, this is one where I couldn’t always put my finger on what exactly wasn’t working. It’s much more involving than BROTHERS GRIMM and doesn’t feel as muddled or sloppy. But it was another one that didn’t quite connect with me. It seemed like it should work, but it didn’t.

Lord of WarThe main problem, and I’m at least sure of this one, is that it’s just not funny enough. There are some good lines, but most of them were in the trailer. One of them (when an ATF agent approaches Nic Cage and Cage says, “This isn’t about the alcohol and the tobacco, is it?”) isn’t even funny in context because it happens at a sad part in the story. I’ve seen some people describe it as a drama, so maybe not everybody thinks it’s supposed to be funny. But I mean come on. There is a scene where he tells the captain of a boat to go “slow… dead slow.” And then there is a shot of the captain pulling a lever to set the speed on “DEAD SLOW.” There’s not any other jokes like that but that does happen in this movie. Did HOTEL RWANDA ever have a joke like that? No. Not in the theatrical cut at least. There was the part where his wife held up the shower nozzle like it was a weapon. But still. That was a serious movie. This is not.

The opening has Cage talking directly to the camera rattling off statistics saying that there is one gun for every 12 people in the world. And then he says, “The only question is: how do we arm the other eleven?”

This is followed by a great opening credits sequence I would call Willy Wonka and the Bullet Factory. You follow the journey of one bullet from the time it’s made to the time it’s accidentally fired into the head of an innocent. This opening perfectly captures what I wish the whole movie was like, and what I bet they were going for: witty, cynical, gimmicky, and then forcing you to think about things you might not otherwise want to. Like rubbing a dog’s nose in his shit, except entertaining and odor free. I guess not that much like rubbing a dog’s nose in shit, that really doesn’t sound like a movie I want to go to. But you know what I mean.

Towards the end the movie turns really sad and even darker, and I’m not against that. I don’t need non-stop laughs. I’m a grown man, I can take a shift in tone. But I do think the movie is trying to be funny when it starts out and therefore I think it is fair to ask for some bigger laughs. Don’t tell me international arms dealing can’t be funny. DR. STRANGELOVE is about as funny as they come and you can’t get any more dark than the end of the world.

Although these are fictional characters, it’s done like sort of a biopic showing how Nicolas Cage and his brother (Jared Leto, guy who bad stuff happens to in various hip movies) go from poor Ukrainian restaraunt workers to megarich illegal weapons moguls. I’m not sure they chose the best way to tell the story though. It is narrated by Cage pretty much from beginning to end. This gets some good lines of description in but I think it’s always a mistake to have this much narrating in a movie. I want to watch the shit play out, not hear somebody describe it.

Also, this might’ve been on purpose, but I didn’t understand why they always look the same age and wear modern clothes. At the beginning you don’t believe they’re young, poor or Ukrainian. If they didn’t tell you it was the ’80s and mention Reagan and the Cold War and shit, you would think it was modern day. And although they live in New York and it all takes place before 9-11, I’m pretty sure you never see the World Trade Center. I only think that’s weird because they don’t shy away from anything else. They even have a joke about Americans selling weapons to Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviets. I think without even saying anything, just having a historically accurate skyline would make the movie’s point even stronger.

Bridget Moynihan plays Cage’s supermodel wife. I don’t really have much to say about that part of the movie, except that she looks alot like Famke Jansenn. Which is kind of amazing, that there would be two women who look like that. Also I was glad that when she finds out his secret at the end, he doesn’t make a big speech that makes it all better. You see that, romantic comedies? You could learn something from this movie.

One thing that’s gotta be tough in this type of movie, they gotta decide whether to make up fake country names or not. Either way it’s gonna be kind of weird. Either you gotta accept that the events are going on in East Fakeistan, or that Nicolas Cage (or Forrest Gump or whoever) palled around with actual historical figures. They sort of do both here: the countries are real but there’s a fictional dictator of Liberia who is one of Cage’s regular customers. His entourage includes a guy with a goldplated machine gun and two girls in sequined cowgirl outfits. Silly, but the character is still scary. They do a good job of capturing the craziness of this world. They don’t pretend that somebody who’s evil can’t also be funny and colorful.

I didn’t hate this movie. And I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it. But I didn’t entirely succeed. Honestly, it is kind of boring. You wouldn’t think it would be possible for a movie to contain this many weapons and yet be this slow. I really liked what it was trying to do. I liked what it was saying. There were some good lines, some clever sequences. The guy behind me kept saying “DAMN!” at various parts so there is definitely some moments.

But I guess what it comes down to is, Flinstones vitamins aren’t actually that good. They may contain important vitamins and minerals to help you grow, but just because they’re shaped like Fred and Barney doesn’t make them fun. It doesn’ make them candy. They’re still vitamins. They’re kind of bland. Come to think of it, The Flinstones isn’t even fucking funny. The guy gets fired every week, gets hit on the head and loses his memory, he calls it “Hollyrock” instead of Hollywood. That’s not fucking funny. That was the mistake with this whole undertaking, The Flinstones isn’t funny enough and neither is LORD OF WAR. They needed to work on this one some more.

I will give them credit for trying though. I give them a 1 for effort.

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2005 at 4:20 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “Lord of War”

  1. Love this review, Vern. Thank you. Watched it years ago and thought I was just missing something.

  2. “Dead slow: adverb, adjective Nautical. as slow as possible without losing steerageway.”

    I really liked this movie and I’m sure it’s aged much better because of the world we’re in now. I don’t think it aimed at being a comedy as much as you did Vern, but I could be wrong on that because I think the advertising sold it as one. I like that Cage doesn’t go so all-out here, and basically is motionless next to Jared Leto’s scene-chewing. Besides thinking when I see him in stuff like FIGHT CLUB or THE THIN RED LINE that this is when he was whatever age he’s pretending to be now, I do think he’s a talented decent actor when he’s in good to great movies, of which I would count this as one.

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